Grantee Spotlight

Grantee Update: Sarah Orne Jewett House

Sarah Orne Jewett is recognized as one of few 19th-century American women authors whose work was published and admired during her lifetime. Jewett’s stories depict 19th-century small town life and the quiet of rural York County, Maine. As a child, Sarah Orne Jewett developed a reverence for nature by spending time alone in the countryside near her home in South Berwick. This house, built in 1744, still stands today and is a national historic landmark preserved by Historic New England. Jewett House is used as a teaching tool for lessons about life in 19th-century York County and the places that inspired Sarah Orne Jewett’s novels. In 2016, the Sam L. Cohen Foundation made its first grant ($7,500) to support efforts to build on a small field trip program for local 3rd graders and to pilot expanding educational programs into other classrooms. A second $7,500 grant in 2018 provided for further expansion into first grade classrooms and to two area high schools. With support from the foundation, the historic house is helping York County schools meet state requirements that students “learn the history of where they live.”

Prior to the foundation’s 2016 grant, third-graders from the nearby Central School took an annual field trip to visit the historic house. With SLCF support this single visit has expanded to include an in-class activity taught by the Jewett House’s Education Coordinator where students make their own sketchbooks to use during the upcoming visit to the house, use magnifying glasses to study details in reproductions of historical maps and photographs, and learn about the author’s childhood in their town. The house is within walking distance of the school, and after visiting the house, each third-grader makes a map that includes their own house, Sarah Orne Jewett’s house, and the rivers and hills between the two that were so important to Sarah as a young girl.  With foundation support, the education program also expanded to include high school art students from Berwick Academy and Marshwood High School. The program “Make History” invites area high school students for two, one-hour visits that use quotes from the author’s letters and writing as prompts for sketching activities in the house. The students use these prep sketches when they return to their art class to create a body of work inspired by the author and her home. Students work in a variety of media, including photography, printmaking, and sculpture. The student artwork is featured in an exhibition at the adjacent visitor center and the community is invited to the exhibition’s opening.

Using the 2018 grant, education programs reach into first-grade classrooms through a partnership with Central School’s music teacher and the Jewett House Education Coordinator. First graders prepare for their visit with a classroom activity where they make child-sized telescopes decorated with rubber stamps of architectural details from the woodwork in the house. On their field trip, the students use their telescopes to focus on details in the house, and the telescopes convert into kazoos for the musical part of the lesson. A new program for eighth-graders incorporates Jewett’s story, “The White Heron,” into discussions about preserving the environment and individual responsibility.

The programs made possible by the foundation call attention to art programs in rural York County schools as the schools promote the collaboration in their newsletters and local media covers the student exhibitions. The Sarah Orne Jewett House Education Coordinator regularly shares the program’s success with Maine’s arts education community through her connections in/with Maine’s Department of Education. The foundation’s support of programs at the Sarah Orne Jewett House are a strong example of how a small grant can expand into a multi-pronged arts education program that connect rural York County students with one of their region’s best-known authors.



2018 Sam L. Cohen Pioneer Scholars

The Pioneer Scholar Program, a partnership between supporters and the Mitchell Institute, provides the opportunity to recognize specific Mitchell Scholars and Alumni who, through their contributions to school and community and their demonstration of certain qualities – as students and as citizens – stand out for acknowledgement.

Congratulations to:

Habso Omane - Portland High School * Smith College

Syeda Washima Fairoz - Biddeford High School * Mount Holyoke College

Luke Gosselin - Thornton Academy * University of Maine



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