Museum visit brings F.S. history to life

After nearly 50 years of anticipation, local students explore community's museum


Fourth-grade students from each of Franklin Square’s three elementary schools traveled back in time on June 1 and June 2, visiting the Franklin Square Museum and learning about the history of their community.

“The goal was to make local history come alive,” said Julie Soffientini, a museum trustee and former assistant superintendent for curriculum of Franklin Square schools, adding that the program was designed by the museum and the school district to provide students with a hands-on, concrete perspective of local history.

“We didn’t want to lecture on things that happened 100 years ago, we wanted local history to be really experienced as things that actually existed and could be touched,” Soffientini said. “It makes learning concrete…to appreciate the history of Franklin Square and to also make it come alive.”

Students who visited the museum expressed excitement about the opportunity to peer into Franklin Square’s past and learn about its history in person.

"I really enjoyed learning about what life was like in Franklin Square 100 years ago,” said Kaiden Padilla, a fourth-grade student from Mrs. Solar’s class at Polk Street School.

The visit included stops at three stations: exhibits that showcased the homes, the schools and the toys and technologies that date back 80 to 100 years, which were used and experienced by past residents of Franklin Square.

Soffientini recalled discussing with students what the 10 most popular candies were 100 years ago. This included some candy companies still popular today, to the surprise of many students. “They realized that some things change a lot over 100 years, and some things just don’t,” Soffientini said.

At the station showcasing what the homes belonging to Franklin Square residents looked like up to 100 years ago, students viewed antique refrigerators, used milk containers delivered to local homes, radios that families sat next to and tuned into and other artifacts.

Students also learned about the Monroe Street School, which was constructed in 1912 as the only school in District 17 at the time, and also viewed artifacts kept before the school’s demolition in 1980.

Students wrote with pen and ink from an inkwell and sat at desks that students from the school district used in the past. "I loved seeing the first school, Washington Square School, in a photo,” said Christian Risolo of Mrs. Solar’s class at Polk Street School, referring to the school’s name prior to being called Monroe Street School.

At the toys’ and technologies’ station, students tried on old school-design roller skates and experimented with dial-only phones as well as typewriters. The two-day event ended with a scavenger hunt that tasked students with finding 24 artifacts spread throughout the museum.

Soffientini said the students particularly enjoyed the hands-on focus of the program, and Ms. Mihalatos of the Washington Street School said the program succeeded in “sharing the many treasures at the museum.”

Beginning in September, the Franklin Square Museum plans to host all of the fourth-and fifth-grade classes at the district’s three elementary schools.