Skip to main content

Local Heritage Lab –
Professional Development for CT Teachers

Place-based heritage education for teachers and studentsTeacher professional development program at Beckley Furnace in East Canaan, CT

Housatonic Heritage is again partnering with Regional School District No. 1 and the Friends of Beckley Furnace to present an exciting new approach to place-based education for teachers and students. Local Heritage Lab provides teachers with the opportunity to immerse themselves in personal exploration and learning at the Beckley Furnace Industrial Heritage Site in East Canaan, CT and to work with their colleagues, content experts, and education advisors in developing place-based, inquiry-focused learning opportunities for their students.

For The 2022-23 School Year

August 23, 2022 + 3 PD sessions during the 2022-23 academic year (PDF Flyer)

Housatonic Heritage is pleased to invite 2nd – 12th grade teachers from Region 1 to participate in the fifth year of our place-based professional development program. Local Heritage Learning Lab provides teachers with opportunities to immerse themselves in personal learning at local heritage sites and to collaborate with colleagues in designing skills-based, inquiry-focused learning opportunities for their students using community resources

  • Get a free field trip with bus transportation to Beckley Furnace in 2023.
  • Get three half-day PD releases during the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Receive a $350 stipend for completion of program.

This program consists of four core activities:

1) Summer Immersion Experience – August 23, 2022
Based at the Beckley Furnace State Industrial Monument in East Canaan, teachers explore the site’s unique landscape, structures, artifacts, and documents and experiment with historical and pedagogical methodologies for learning in heritage sites settings.

2) Heritage Site Field Visits (release time has been authorized by Region 1 administration) October 2022, January & April 2023

  • Three half-day heritage site field visits to explore new content, resources, and teaching strategies and collaborate in developing curriculum- and standards-aligned fieldtrip learning experiences for students.

3) Virtual Peer Feedback Sessions – December 2022, March & June 2023

  • Three short virtual sessions to stay connected between in-person gatherings and share progress, solve problems, and request support and/or additional resources to support lesson and field trip planning.

4) Lesson Implementation and Student Field Trips

  • Teacher implementation of lessons/activities, including student field trips to Beckley Furnace.

To learn more or to enroll, contact Elisabeth Nevins, Coordinator:

About the Pilot Program

In 2014, with funding from CTHumanities, Housatonic Heritage worked with area teachers to explore alternative models of teacher engagement. The result of this planning process was the development of the Local Heritage Learning Lab model to be piloted during the 2015-16 school year.

The Local Heritage Learning Lab model was shaped by input from the planning process indicating that:

  • heritage sites possess extraordinary educational resources but often lack the educational expertise to create meaningful and useful learning experiences for school audiences—particularly as curriculum standards evolve at such a rapid pace.
  • teachers are more likely to build lessons around and bring their students to a particular heritage site if they have developed a personal connection to that place and it is convenient and easy to work with site staff to co-create relevant learning experiences for students.
  • the professional development experience should begin with opportunities for teachers to immerse themselves in personal exploration and learning at the heritage site and to explore new historiographical approaches to uncovering and interpreting the past.
  • support and learning for teachers must continue throughout the school year with a series of professional development sessions that allow teachers to work together, with support from outside experts, to develop and implement curriculum-aligned learning experiences at the heritage site for their students.

Interested in learning more about LHLL or participating in future LHLL activities?

Sign Up Now

2015-16 Pilot Program Activities

The pilot program includes three core activities:

Summer Immersion Experience | July 27-29, 2015Local Heritage Learning Lab at Beckley Furnace, a professional development event for teachers in Connecticut

  • Teachers explore the Beckley site’s unique landscape, structure, artifacts, and documents.
  • Sessions focus on historical methodologies and place-based learning pedagogy for exploring heritage sites.

Coaching and Peer Feedback Sessions | November 17, 2015 & TBD

  • Three half-day coaching and peer feedback sessions to support teachers in creating learning experiences for their students exploring Beckley Furnace.

Lesson Implementation and Student Field Trips | TBD, Spring 2016

  • Teacher implementation of lessons/activities, including student field trips to Beckley Furnace.

Pilot Program Update: September 2015

The LHLL Summer Immersion experience was held at The Beckley Furnace Industrial Heritage site on July 27-29, 2015. Four teachers from Regional School District No. 1 participated in the immersion experience pilot, which was facilitated by heritage education and interpretation consultants Elisabeth Nevins and Rainey Tisdale. Ed Kirby, Dick Paddock, and Geoff Brown of the Friends of Beckley Furnace served as hosts and content experts during the three-day experience.Local Heritage Learning Lab - UPHV 2015 B

The pilot immersion program was structured to encourage personal, sensory, and inquiry-based exploration of the Beckley site. Activities included a solitary sensory immersion experience, geocache exploration of the site in pairs, landscape-reading walk along the Blackberry River, geology and natural resources presentation, and artifact and architecture examination. Participants completed readings and reflection pieces each night for group discussion the next day.

Feedback was collected from the teacher participants and was generally very positive. Though some were skeptical of the amount of time spent on seemingly simple topics or activities, the depth of insight gained was eye-opening.

  • “I thought the pacing was great…even the things that I thought “were taking too long” (examining the ore cart) turned out to be really fascinating.”

Others appreciated the order of the activities and the building of layers of understanding and insight over the course of the three-day experience.

  • “[The] notion of starting with the self and what one can sense of place, then moving to partner work via geocache and questioning with the group before “experts” reveal information was a great progression.”

This feedback will be used to further refine the immersion experience component of the LHLL program.

Look for another update in late November after our first Coaching and Peer Feedback session. We want to carry the spirit of inquiry forward from the summer and will be meeting at the Bebee Hill Schoolhouse where the teachers will begin developing their student learning experiences.

Pilot Program Update: December 2015

On November 17—a beautiful autumn afternoon—the LHLL teacher cohort gathered beebe_hill_schoolhouse_aat the Beebe Hill School House along with heritage education consultant Elisabeth Nevins, Lou Bucceri of Housatonic Heritage, and Lillian Lovett of the Falls Village–Canaan Historical Society.

The afternoon began with an inquiry activity in the school house, with teachers generating questions about space, writing them on sticky notes, and attaching them to the objects the questions referred to. The exercise helped illuminate the “hot spots” in the room that the group was curious about. A conversation followed, with Lillian Lovett answering questions and sharing stories and resources about Beebe Hill with the teachers.

The focus then shifted to concrete thinking about the kinds of learning experiences the teachers wanted to create for their students using the Beckley Furnace site and other area heritage resources. The group generated exciting ideas for student learning and did some concrete planning around logistics and timing.beebe_hill_schoolhouse_c

The teachers (and facilitators!) left inspired and energized and recently shared their draft activity plans with one another, including lists of resources from Beckley and other local history organization that they will need for their lessons. Lou Bucceri is working with the Friends of Beckley Furnace and others to help identify and make these resources available.

The group will reconvene in February 2016 at the Salisbury Association for the second of the three coaching and peer feedback sessions. Look for another project update in March 2016.

Pilot Program Update: March 2016

On February 19 the LHLL teacher cohort and project team members met at the Salisbury Association’s Academy Building. Upon arriving, the teachers were sent back out into the cold to create a map of Main Street and generate questions based on their observations. The group returned to the warmth of the Academy Building’s second-floor research room to compare the information they had recorded and to consider how personal or professional experiences influence what someone notices in exploring a new landscape—or in taking time to look more closely at a familiar one.

After examining some historic maps of Salisbury’s Main Street, Lou Bucceri, Chair of the Salisbury Association Historical Society and History Alliance Coordinator for Housatonic Heritage, gave the group a tour of the Association’s collections and other resources that are available for use by teachers and researchers. Of particular interest were binders archiving images of and research notes from the history exhibits mounted by the Historical Society over the years.

Members of the Friends of Beckley Furnace joined the group and discussion turned to the nitty-gritty of gathering materials—from limestone and iron ore to laminated maps and images—to be included in resource kits for the teachers to use in their classrooms. And preliminary plans were made for student fieldtrips in late May or early June.

The group will be meeting in early April 2016 at Trinity Lime Rock to explore how the iron industry shaped the Lime Rock community and to work collaboratively in planning their classroom fieldtrips to Beckley Furnace later in the spring.

Program Update – June 2017

LHLL Program Activities, Year Two

Planning & Recruitment | Spring 2016

Recruitment of the second cohort of LHLL teachers began in spring 2016 as the pilot cohort was finalizing their field trip plans. The program team contacted Dr. Pam Vogel, Region One Assistant Superintendent, to secure the support of the district in providing coverage for the three half-day PD sessions during the school year. Dr. Vogel readily committed and supported the program team in recruiting teachers for year two.

The LHLL program team consists of:

  • Elisabeth Nevins, LHLL Program Facilitator, Seed Education Consulting
  • Lou Bucceri, History Alliance Coordinator, Housatonic Heritage
  • Ed Kirby, Dick Paddock, and Geoff Brown, FOBF leadership

Based on lessons learned from the previous year’s process, Lou Bucceri took the lead in recruiting cohort two, connecting face-to-face with teachers who had expressed interest the previous year, following up on recommendations from cohort one, and attending school meetings to promote the program. A recruitment flyer (attached) was shared widely via email to districts teachers—including social studies, science, and language arts. By June 2016 five teachers had signed on to participate in LHLL year two:

  • Trudy Allyn, media specialist, Salisbury Central School
  • Lexie Juch, media specialist, North Canaan Elementary School
  • Melissa White, 6th grade social studies, Salisbury Central
  • Cindy Willson, 7th & 8th grade social studies, Kent Center School
  • Marcie Wistar, middle & high school science, Kildonan School

Cohort two includes a nice diversity from the previous year’s participants with new schools (two new Region One and one private) and new specialties (media specialists and science) included in the mix.

  • Summer Immersion Experience| July 13-14, 2016

Based on feedback from the pilot year teacher cohort, the LHLL summer immersion experience was shortened from 16 contact hours over three days to 12 contact hours over two days The group met at Beckley Furnace on July 13 & 14, 2016. Five teachers participated in the immersion experience, which was facilitated by Elisabeth Nevins and Lou Bucceri. Ed Kirby, Dick Paddock, and Geoff Brown of the FOBF served as hosts and content experts during the two-day workshop.

The program was structured to encourage personal, sensory, and inquiry-based exploration of the Beckley site. Activities were similar to those of the pilot year with some modifications based on feedback: a solitary sensory immersion experience, geocache exploration of the site in small groups, landscape-reading walk along the Blackberry River, geology and natural resources presentation, and an inquiry-focused artifact and architecture examination. Participants completed readings and reflection pieces each night for group discussion the next day (see attached schedule of activities).

Feedback was collected from the teacher participants and was generally very positive (see attached post-summer immersion survey responses). This feedback will be used to further refine the immersion experience component of the LHLL program for future implementation.

  • Coaching and Peer Feedback Sessions| September 26 & December 1, 2016 & May 17, 2017 (scheduled)

To carry the summer immersion experience forward and remain connected, the teacher cohort met three times during the 2016-17 school year. With authorization from the Region One district leadership for the public school participants, the teachers were given paid professional development release time to participate in these 3-hour sessions.

These meetings were conceived as an opportunity for the teacher cohort to work together in translating their personal exploration during the summer with these historiographical methodologies and the historic material of Beckley into curriculum- and standards-aligned learning experiences for their students. While they have served this purpose, they have also provided the group with opportunities to learn more about other heritage sites in their community that link to the Beckley story (see attached agendas). The teachers created preliminary plans for their curricula and field trips; discussed, shared, and requested resources; and provided on going feedback on the LHLL program.

Based on feedback from the pilot cohort, the cohort two returned to Beckley for first PD session in order to reconnect with their summer experience after over two months had passed. Subsequent sessions were scheduled at other heritage/educational sites to expand teachers’ understanding of the role of the iron industry in Region One and to see how the strategies and activities of the summer translated to other heritage settings. In addition to Beckley, the group has met at the Salisbury Association’s Academy Building (with a visit to the Scoville Library History Collection).

The third PD session originally was scheduled for March 16, 2017 at the Connecticut Museum of Mining and Mineral Science in Kent, however the session was postponed due to a late season snowstorm. Meanwhile, members of the teacher cohort had already begun scheduling their field trips to Beckley for late April. After consulting participant and facilitator schedules, the group decided to meet for the final PD session on May 17, 2017 after everyone had completed their field trips.

The session was held at the Housatonic Valley Regional High School Mahoney-Hewat Science & Technology Center. After a tour of the facility led by STC director Nancy Martin, the teachers shared their curriculum materials and field trip experiences with the full cohort. The group then provided feedback on their LHLL experience, offering insight into what they felt were the program’s strengths and ways it could be made more relevant to teachers and students.

  • Lesson Implementation and Student Field Trips | Spring 2017

Members of the teacher cohort scheduled their field trips to Beckley Furnace by contacting Ed Kirby of FOBF directly and then scheduled buses, which were billed to HH. The schedule of field trips was as follows:



Reflection on LHLL Program, Year Two

Convening the final PD session after teachers had taken their students to Beckley for their field trip experience not only allowed the teachers the opportunity to share and learn from one another’s work, but also afforded the LHLL program facilitators the opportunity to get timely feedback from participants on their experience over the past year. Facilitators were also able to get important insight in how to improve the program in the future to better serve teachers and those running the heritage sites.

Some highlights and takeaways from the conversation include:

Connecting area teachers to Beckley and other heritage resources

We were able to recruit five teachers to participate in the experience during year two. Four participated in year one and only two brought students to Beckley for a field trip.

  • Group included a diversity of grade levels (5th, 7th, 8th), disciplines (science, social studies, media), and locations (N. Canaan, Kent, Salisbury, Kildonan). We also had a teacher from outside Region One participate.
  • All five teachers participated fully in the three core LHLL activities: summer immersion, three half-day PD sessions, and field trips.
  • Two teachers were from Salisbury Central and partnered in developing lessons and activities.
  • Another two partnered with teachers of other disciplines in their schools—art, social studies, science—to organize and lead activities with students and exposing an additional 3-5 teachers to the LHLL program.
  • Two teachers invited representatives from local heritage sites to present in their classrooms and one teacher brought her students to multiple heritage sites as part of her curriculum unit.
  • Three LHLL teachers, one from year one and two from year two, developed Beckley-focused curriculum units for Region One’s “Rubicon Atlas” shared curriculum website. The superintendent approved the units and they are now accessible to all teachers in the district.
  • When told we are exploring the possibility of including money in future LHLL budgets to cover transportation costs for “alumni,” all year two participants were extremely enthusiastic and asked to be informed as soon as possible so they could include the content in their plans for 2017-18.


  • Introducing area students to Beckley Furnace and their local history

Four schools/grades participated in the LHLL program during year two resulting in 101 students learning about and exploring Beckley Furnace in April 2017.

  • Students spent between 3-5 hours on-site at Beckley engaged in the exploration of the site and other resources.
  • In addition to their on-site visit, students completed activities and research in the classroom before coming to build skills and content knowledge.
  • Students from Salisbury Central created presentations after their trip to Beckley and invited the 3rd grade students to a “fair” to share what they learned.
  • Students from Kent compiled their reflections, photos, samples, and artwork in handmade books.
  • Students at Kildonan developed questions about “inputs and outputs” and fuel and developed individual science experiments to find answers.


  • General observations


In allowing teachers to develop their own field trip experience we’ve allowed for more flexibility in who can participate, what they study, and how much time they spend, etc. versus if we developed a packaged program for 7th graders (for example). But, this variability puts a strain on Friends of Beckley Furnace volunteers in staffing field trips and supporting teachers and students.

However, certain activities (with some modifications) were completed by most or all of the students, all version of activities that were presented during the summer immersion experience. This suggests 1) the need for some focused thinking about and refinement of the activities presented during the summer and 2) the possibility of creating some basic, somewhat codified materials for the activities that most teachers have their students do on site at Beckley, particularly the Blackberry River walk. This will ensure that teachers and FOBF volunteers aren’t reinventing the wheel for each field trip.


Scheduling is always in issue but we did a much better job this year setting dates and locations for meetings well enough in advance. Communication between LHLL facilitators, teachers, FOBF seemed much smoother than in year one.

Interestingly, all the field trips in 2017 took place in April (June in 2016) which resulted in colder children, but more opportunities to actually see things because leaves and ground cover hand not come in yet.

The teachers expressed frustration about fitting the content and learning in with all the other demands on their and students’ time. Explicit support from district administration might alleviate some of this stress as teachers would know that the program and content was viewed as important to the district.


We have heard from the Assistant Superintendent that teachers have been “asking about LHLL” for next year. One year two teacher has already reached out to two other teachers in her school about participating.

Participating teachers are interested in collaborating with colleagues to create cross-disciplinary learning experiences. Having alumni identify teachers in their schools they’d like to bring into the fold might be a good place to start in recruiting for year three.

We still have two schools in Region One that have not been represented in LHLL: Cornwall and Sharon. How can we get them in the mix?


LHLL Next Steps

Based on feedback from program participants and facilitators, including FOBF, HH has committed to continuing the LHLL program for a third year. In addition to inviting a third cohort of teachers to participate in the year-long program, the program team will also develop a 3-5 year sustainability plan for the LHLL program. Work has begun to secure the support of the Region One administration and to recruit a new group of teacher participants.

The Upper Housatonic Valley Experience

The Upper Housatonic Valley Experience was our very first ‘heritage immersion’ course, exclusively for local educators.

Though the program was discontinued, you’ll find additional details of the program are here.

‘The Upper Housatonic Valley Experience is an intense, condensed immersion program in the region‘s history, culture, environment and economy. This annual, Masters-lavel for-credit summer class develops curricula for area schools, classroom teaching materials and funding opportunities for field trips and student outings during the school year.’