On Thursday, June 4, seven of the eight students who were the driving force behind the May 1 “Celebrate Center!” ceremony and display visited their new neighbor, the Old Lyme Historical Society (OLHS), to take in their current exhibit, “A Glimpse of Early Schools in Lyme, Connecticut, 1650-1868.” The invitation was extended by Kevin Cole, a member of the OLHS Board of Trustees, Region 18 Liaison; Center School alumnus; and a fifth-grade teacher there, recently retired.
Although these students did not have ‘Mr. Cole’ as a classroom teacher, he was a familiar, popular presence at the school. Exhibit Chair Alison C. Mitchell, along with Cole, greeted the children and, after time for refreshments provided by the Historical Society, guided them through the various displays.
The students learned that during this historical period, local school districts certified their teachers to teach; a certificate is on display. Along with numerous photos, there are such artifacts as a schoolmaster’s watch; schoolbooks of the day, including a hornbook—students were surprised at the small size of some of these books; a slate pencil; toys; and a flag with 13 stars.
Fifth-grader Lizzy Duddy was intrigued by the books. “They were very interesting because of all the different spellings. I liked all the cool pictures and artifacts.” Staff Advisor Helen Traver Scott felt this was “a wonderful opportunity for the students to see what it was like before Center School was built. The students were interested and polite and asked intelligent questions.”
Back at the school following the tour, the students were met with a surprise …
Scott, an Old Lyme native herself and Center School alumna who spearheaded ‘Celebrate Center’ and coordinated the students’ efforts, presented each student with a small photo album containing pictures of the display boards the students made for Celebrate Center, a copy of the speech he or she made during the May 1 program, and a T-shirt printed with an image of the mural in the front lobby of Center School.
This mural depicts local scenery, both current and historic, and was created by all the students several years ago immediately following the renovation in the pointillism style, with each student adding dots of color.
There were eight students who made all the displays for Celebrate Center. Anne Colangelo, unfortunately, was not able to tour the Historical Society. Those attending were John Coffey, Elise DeBernardo, Lizzy Duddy, Zoe Jensen, Gabe Katwaru, Emily Nickerson, and Lauren Presti.
Two of these students are “descendants” of other Center School alumni: Lizzy Duddy’s sister, Lexi Duddy; father, John Duddy; grandmother Patricia Bugbee; great uncle Don Bugbee; and great-grandfather Donald Bugbee as well as various aunts, uncles, and cousins all attended Center School.
Emily Nickerson’s grandmother Beverly Mathiason and several uncles attended the school.
Friday these fifth grade students will make history as the very last class to graduate from Center School. A clearly pleased Scott points out, “They will take all the friends they made and the history they learned with them when they move on to middle school.”