Ralston students are doing more than just studying history from a book. Instead, they are making it come alive for those interested in learning it.
Last month, Andrea Hartman, advanced placement U.S. history teacher at Ralston High School, assigned her students a service learning project.
With the help of students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the class is diving into the Blackstone District’s history.
The Blackstone District extends generally from 36th to 42nd streets along Farnam Street.
For the project, each student teamed with a college student, and each team was given addresses to research in the district.
Their goal is to find out what historical event happened in the building, when it was built and people associated with it.
After students gather information, they will create a website comprised of all their researched sites in Blackstone.
In the spring, each of the 16 locations will have a QR code posted outside for visitors to scan with their phones. The codes will direct viewers to the website created by RHS students.
Hartman said one of her favorite aspects of this project is seeing students get involved in the community.
“I like that I can bring in some active engagement for my students. It’s a great way to make it more interesting,” Hartman said.
By learning about Omaha’s history, Hartman said she hopes her students realize that local history is important.
“We study U.S. history and the themes of U.S. history and it’s really important to know on the national level, but those same themes apply to the community that you’re living in,” she said.
Since January, students have spent time at the Blackstone Memorial Library digging up information about their assigned locations.
Junior Ana Sanchez-Martinez said at first she didn’t think she’d enjoy the project, but after it started, she learned a lot about her own city.
For the project, Sanchez-Martinez was assigned the Dundee Bank. According to her research, she said it used to be a restaurant called McFoster’s.
“I lived here my whole life and I didn’t even know half of these things,” she said. “I never thought Omaha had much interesting history and it opened my eyes to what actually happened. I hope it has the same effect on the people who see it.”
Junior Katie True said she also had fun learning more about Blackstone.
Her address, 4007 Farnam St., which is currently Ansel’s Pastrami and Bagels, used to be a barbershop.
“Omaha has a lot of rich history that people don’t know about and it’s really cool to be able to show people that,” True said.
The project is expected to be completed at the end of April, so as the weather warms and people explore the streets of Blackstone, they can also learn about its past.
And while educating the community is important, Hartman said she is happy to show her students that history is more than just traditional research papers.
“The service learning project provides students a way to understand the community they are living in,” Hartman said. “I hope they learn about the community so they can go out and enjoy it.”