High School Brings History to Life with PEF Grant


In the 2010-2011 school year, Pentucket High School freshmen had the unique opportunity to work on a new project called “Underground,” which gave them a deep understanding of the U.S. slave experience and the Underground Railroad. A group of high school educators sought to expand on this successful project and identified the opportunity to launch a school-wide program to deepen students’ understanding of civil rights in the United States. Entitled, “Civil to Civil,” this program would include the entire school and fully explore the historical and cultural experience from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.


The teachers applied for a PEF grant, and received $5,050 to fully fund the “Civil to Civil” program. The funds were used to purchase movie making equipment, musical arrangements, a website and video editing software.


At the core of “Civil to Civil” was the connection between the 9th and 10th grade curriculums, with the former learning about the Civil War and the latter learning about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.  “Civil to Civil” expanded the classroom experience school-wide with period musical pieces performed by the band and chorus, dramatic readings from important literary works, tri-board presentations about the Civil War Era, and student-produced documentaries about the voices from the Civil Rights Movement.

The fine and performing arts department presented a diverse set of performances, including a re-enactment of a Civil Rights Movement era Woolworths lunch counter sit-in. The Pentucket High School band and jazz band performed several pieces connected to the “Civil to Civil” theme, and the chorus performed a concert with songs including “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “We Shall Overcome,” and, as a grand finale,  “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough.”

Ninth grade students will showcase their research on events leading up to and during the Civil War, and students will highlight local contributions in the greater Newburyport area to the Civil War with a map that follows where local regiments fought. All freshman classes have explored resources related to the Civil War on field trip either to the Massachusetts Historical Society, the National Archives or the Customs House Maritime Museum. All freshman and sophomore students completed research papers on related topics, and sophomore history classes worked with video production classes to create documentaries, which were presented in the history classrooms the night of the event.

“Civil to Civil was a fascinating opportunity to work with a diverse set of educators focused on meaningful student achievement,” history teacher J.C. Honer said. “The response from students was great – they worked extremely hard to fully understand these critical eras in American history. This was a ground-breaking project for Pentucket High School.”