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A Trip Back To The Jennings Trail

Last year, “06880” sounded the alarm that the Jennings Trail Tour had been canceled.

A staple of local 3rd grade life for years — once an actual bus tour of historic Westport highlights — a while ago it morphed into a field trip to Wheeler House, the Westport Historical Society‘s very historic home.

Now — ta da! — the field trip is back.

Director of elementary education Julie Droller revived it — and enlisted Staples High School senior interns as docents. A team, including WHS education director Elizabeth DeVoll and town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz worked to make the tour fit current curriculum requirements.

In a 2-week span, over 500 kids marveled at artifacts and photos that told of Westport’s long-ago rich farmland, fish-filled river and bustling shipping industry. Robert Lambdin’s “Saugatuck in the 19th Century” mural also mesmerized them.

A detail from Robert Lambdin’s magnificent mural.

The docents challenged them with questions like, “What was it like to be a kid in Westport 150 years ago?”

The 3rd grade social studies curriculum includes a study of Connecticut and Westport history. On the Jennings Trail tour, the youngsters created a local timeline, from long ago to today. Each one created an Archival Folder, to bring home.

In 1997, Paul Newman wrote in a Historical Society booklet, “Westport is special to us because it’s home.

That was a decade before the current 3rd graders were born. If they know Paul Newman at all, it’s as that lemonade guy.

But thanks to the Jennings Trail Tour, a new generation of young Westporters is learning a great deal about the town that they too call home.

Interns (from left) Abby King, Ale Benjamin, David Raice and Mehar Kiami. All are Staples High School seniors except Abby (Fairfield Ludlowe High).

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