Students explore local history

By Steefenie Wicks Sausalito Historical Society

Her mother brought her back to the center of town and dropped her off at her destination, the Sausalito Historical Society’s Ice House on Bridgeway in downtown Sausalito. 

 Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

“Are you sure about this?” her mother asked. She looked back at her mother with determination and said, “Yes, I know this place. I’ll wait here for you.” With that, she turned and walked up the stairs to the front door, opened it and stepped inside. The young girl approached the docent on duty that happened to be Robin Sweeny former Sausalito four-time mayor, and announced forcefully, “I am here to see the artifacts.” She was one of over three hundred third grade students who have experienced the Sausalito Historical Society Schools’ Program about local Sausalito history.

 Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

Photo Courtesy of Susan Frank 

The idea to begin a schools’ program sponsored by the Sausalito Historical Society at Bayside/MLK and Willow Creek Academies was the brainchild of Susan Frank who, along with volunteers Bob Woodrum and Jesse Seaver and teachers Anne Siskin and Paula Hammonds put together a pilot program in 2010. The goal of the program was to encourage teachers and students to explore Sausalito’s interesting past asking two fundamental questions: what is history and what part do I play in history? The initial unit featured a then-and-now appreciation of Sausalito’s historic downtown buildings and businesses. The second and third units, developed in subsequent years, introduced colorful personalities and families from Sausalito’s past and the Marinship World War II shipyard.

Susan Frank and present-day co-director Margaret Badger both bring an educational background to their work. Frank graduated from UC Berkeley in History, started a child development center in Minnesota and on returning to California worked in the Ingram pre-Schools in Menlo Park. On settling in Sausalito, she participated in local school programs. Badger has a BA in History from Vassar College and a Masters in Education from Yale University, and is a California credentialed teacher with a career in teaching and curriculum writing. Working in concert with Bayside teacher Jim Scullion and Willow Creek teachers Anne Siskin and Kevin Breakstone, the program continues to challenge young students to learn about local history and to understand how they are part of it.

Kevin Breakstone, the newest teacher to take part in the program, sums up the experience this way. “Through hands-on experience, access to museums and displays, and roleplaying, the Sausalito Historical Society guided the kids into true conceptual and factual knowledge of Sausalito and Marin City history. The awareness that they live in a town shaped by history, and that they are part of that history will live with my students forever.”

Jim Scullion of Bayside Academy in Marin City writes that this program has given his students “an opportunity to learn about and research buildings and people of Sausalito from long ago. It also gave them insight into the importance of the Marinship and Marin City. The students talked for days about their visit to the Bay Model Marinship display. They never realized why this area was so important. They feel very special that the area where they live and go to school was such an important part of history.”

 Photo courtesy of Gina Risso. 

Photo courtesy of Gina Risso. 

Finally, Anne Siskin of Willow Creek Academy writes, “as we looked carefully at the historical photographs, maps, newspapers, artwork, documents and artifacts collected and displayed at the Historical Society, Ice House and Bay Model, and visited historical buildings built in the downtown district on field trips, we could imagine what it was like to have lived in the past. Like the docents of the Historical Society, we too became historians as we learned about the history of the city where we live.”

The program has thrived because of the cooperation of teachers and administrators and the dedicated work of the docents who take information to the classrooms, reenact snippets of history, and lead field trips. Community support from Waterstreet Hardware, Lapperts Ice Cream and Bob Woodrum of Sausalito Picture Framing encourages us all to keep having fun and to keep asking, “What is history and where do I fit in?

Inquiries about becoming a docent should be directed to the Sausalito Historical Society at 415-289-4117 or info@sausalitohistoricalsociety.org and copies of the Marinship booklet can be purchased at the Bay Model in Sausalito.