AYER — How do letters arrive in your mailbox? How does the town get their money? Where does the bank keep their money? How many books are there in the library? What does a judge do?
These are common questions that most school-age children have, and the students in Ayer are no different. In the middle of May, more than 80 youngsters in the second grade at the Page Hilltop School decided to go out into their world to investigate. Five teachers, Lindsay Mele, Sue Reilly, Nancy Pasquaretta, Stephanie Marchand and Pat Lynch, contacted the municipal buildings in Ayer to arrange for tours and information sessions.
Field trips have become very expensive due to the rising fuel costs, so in order to make this experiential trip economical, they decided to do the excursion on foot. So, on the morning of May 17, the students, along with their teachers and chaperones, headed down Washington Street to find their destinations. The classes split up and visited the post office, North Middlesex Savings Bank, the courthouse, the library and Town Hall.
At the post office, Postmaster Gary Luca greeted the 7 and 8-year-olds. He spoke to them about what happens to mail when they receive it and how it gets places so quickly. Each of the students had written a postcard before arriving, and then they got to help the mail carriers sort the postcards into the routes they would be delivered on.
North Middlesex Savings Bank proved to be very interesting for the pint-sized travelers. NMSB’s Donna Morel gave the children a tour, showed them the vaults, and told them all about the time capsule that was found inside the walls of the bank almost 15 years ago. It was fascinating to see the pictures of the town from many years ago and the banking ledgers that were hand-written.
On the tour of the courthouse children were allowed to sit and witness a courtroom in session. The judge greeted them and explained who all the people in attendance were. They met Chief Probation Officer Susan Reed who explained what her important department does.
The kids walked to the library where Young Adult Librarian Samantha Benoit talked about the resources available and how to find things. She asked each youngster what his or her favorite book was so she could make sure that she had books they would like on the shelves.
At Town Hall, the groups were greeted by Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand. Pontbriand talked about the reasons a person might visit Town Hall. After walking up to the second-floor meeting room, Pontbriand showed them where voting occurs and gave them a local history lesson. The students were captivated by his story of Ayer’s namesake, Dr. James Cook Ayer, who lived in Lowell but provided the funds necessary to build Town Hall and the library. They were also very interested in the historic fire that destroyed a large part of the town only a year after its inception.
Five big visits left many of the children a little tired, so they headed down to Pirone Park where a lunch and playing on the playground gave them enough energy to make the return trip to the school on foot.
“This trip is wonderful in that it allows the children to explore these municipal buildings and to see how their town works up close,” said second grade teacher Pat Lynch.
Fellow teacher Lindsay Mele agrees. “For them to see up close what all of these institutions do is priceless. I doubt they will easily forget sorting mail, or seeing the inside of the bank vault, or sitting in a real-life courtroom, or exploring the stacks of the library, or experiencing the greatness of the grand second floor meeting room at the Town Hall.”
“We can’t thank them enough for taking time out of their busy days.”