STEM students learn how technology & oral history can help preserve the past
On the back corner of Stilson Elementary School’s (SES) campus in Bulloch County, sits an 81-year-old log cabin. Believed to be the last of its kind, it is also the last of five original structures which once stood on the property.
Though not used by the school system since the 1990s, Stilson’s STEM Lab Teacher Jenny Hendrix saw the historic landmark and her desire to save it as a practical way to teach her students a unit on technology, and how it can be used to preserve history. Making connections with multiple departments at local Georgia Southern University fueled the children’s learning experiences and the Stilson community’s hope.
The Stilson Log Cabin was built in 1937 by area citizens with timbers donated by Charles Lee, who owned a nearby farm. The construction was funded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s depression-era Works Progress Administration relief program, and its former uses chronical the changing needs of the school system and community.
Affectionately known as the soup kitchen, its original purpose was to be a community resource for meals during the depression. Schools began serving lunches for the first time, and alumni remember it being used to can vegetables.
Later it housed classrooms to teach home economics and agriculture, and it was the site for Saturday dances and community gatherings. When Stilson added a Kindergarten program, the log cabin became its home. As time passed and the building was no longer used, its uses and contents became playground lore.
“Stilson has my heart!,” Jenny Hendrix said. “This is where I went to elementary school, and I just want to give students amazing experiences like I had while I was here as a student many moons ago.”
Known as an innovative teacher, Hendrix reached out to Georgia Southern University’s Construction Management program faculty and to its Communication Arts faculty. From that collaboration a video documentary and a structural analysis, renovation plan and cost estimates for the building were created. The project’s largest expense would be lifting the log cabin to replace its decaying support beams.
For the video documentary, Stilson alumni, retired teachers, and retired administrators visited Stilson to be interviewed by Hendrix’s students. They enjoyed meeting people who were knowledgeable about their school’s history and seeing the stories documented on video. One student learned that her great-grandfather helped add restrooms to the log cabin. Another student learned that the house in which she currently lives was previously used to house teachers who taught at Stilson during the 1940s.
The project’s next step is to generate county-wide support for this historical renovation project. Stilson hopes that the documentary will reach others who will have a desire to help save the log cabin. Stilson is also looking at possible fundraisers and an alumni day.
Thank you to the following people who helped make this STEM project come to life:
Stilson alumni & community: James Davis, Danalyn & Edwin Akins, Carol Brown Shephard, Faye Sanders Martin, Dianne Bath, Robert Smith;
Stilson students: Navee Applebee, Murphy Grovenstein, Aubrey Williams, Bryson Hendrix, Kate Anna Newman, Emily Deloach, Ella Collins, Maylin Swint.
Georgia Southern Faculty: Tyson Davis and his Multimedia & Film Production students; Dr. Clinton Martin and his senior Construction Management students.