High school teachers holding walking tours of Bellefonte to educate community

PHOTO PROVIDED Bellefonte teachers are hosting walking tours of Bellefonte on Friday, Aug. 16 and Friday, Aug. 23.

BELLEFONTE — Bellefonte has more than 200 years of history, and you can travel back in time on a series of walking tours this summer led by Bellefonte Area High School history and social studies teachers Matt Maris and Chris Morris. The project is made possible through a partnership with the Centre County Library and Historical Museum, where Maris interned while obtaining his master’s degree in history from Arizona State.

The events began with four tours in March and April as part of professional learning-type activities among staff at Bellefonte Area School District. It comes with a mission to also bring new knowledge of the community’s history into the classroom. They toured Union Cemetery, Bellefonte Academy, the Curtin and Linn street communities and more. Fellow teachers Mike Maney and Nicole Eckley also helped in the effort and with the tours.

“Walking tours are (a) great way to celebrate Bellefonte’s rich history and connect to our community,” Maris said. “Bellefonte’s history, architecture and cultural landscape (are) beneficial to many subjects and applications. In a way, Bellefonte is a history lab that has volumes of lessons in store. In addition, the tours will encourage community connections and pride.”

Now, open to the community, the free tours will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16 and Friday, Aug. 23.

“Our goal is to not only provide engaging tours to the staff and community, but to also bring the local history connections into the classroom for the students, and eventually do more engaging field trips and field studies of our wonderful town with our students,” Maris said.

Maris and Morris offer the tours as volunteers for the Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

Morris said she was approached by Maris in the fall about the possibility of working with the library and historical center to design walking tours, which she said she was excited about. It came with a plethora of research using records, newspaper articles and more, in order to properly share the history of the borough. More research will continue this summer and will include a community presence before bringing the project back to district staff next school year.

Phase 1, Morris added, begins at the Miles-Humes House and continues along Allegheny Street to High Street before walking by Talleyrand Park and the Gamble Mill in a tour that is about a mile long. They then return by the armory, Bellefonte Elementary School and Hastings Mansion.

“It’s important for all of our community members to see why Bellefonte is important,” Morris said. “I (also) think it’s important for our students to realize the importance of our town in local, state and national history.”

After all, Bellefonte is the hometown of many influential people including seven governors, the founder of Penn State, other federal elected leaders and more.

(Editor’s note: Content provided by the Bellefonte Area School District).

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