hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

September 19, 2013

Mix of technology, local history a plus for students

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — If you’ve lived in Haverhill for any amount of time, you’ve heard of the Basiliere Bridge.

You’ve likely driven over it countless times.

It’s the one that connects the eastern end of downtown to Bradford — the “big bridge’’ over the Merrimack River, as some people call it.

But, depending on your age, you might not know why it bears the Basiliere name.

The bridge is named for Ralph Basiliere, the first Haverhill person to die in the Vietnam War. Several other Haverhill people lost their lives in that war after him.

Given their ages, it is not surprising that Haverhill High students know little or nothing about Basiliere and Haverhill’s other connections to the Vietnam War.

The war happened long before they were born. Much local, regional and national history has transpired since the Vietnam War.

But a Haverhill High teacher is combining local history and modern technology to help Hillie students learn what role Haverhill and its people played in the war.

Teacher Marilyn Caradonna has created an eBook (electronic book) about the war and the city’s involvement in it. (See story, Page 1.) With the push of a finger, students can read about the Haverhill people who fought and died in the war, even read letters they sent from their military posts to family members here.

Kudos to Caradonna for creating the eBook and exposing students to pieces of local history they knew little or nothing about. Kudos too to the students for diving into the project, for their enthusiasm as they learn about local history that before now was hiding under their noses.

The book even contains lyrics to popular songs written in protest to the war. They are songs students may have heard in the past, but never knew they were connected to the war.

Joey Markey was among the first students to use Caradonna’s eBook.

“We looked up the names of people from Haverhill and Bradford who died in the war and learned about the Basiliere Bridge, which was pretty interesting,” he told reporter Mike LaBella. “I was drawn to the photographs and the one that stuck out, and which I wrote an essay on, is a young soldier who doesn’t seem like he wanted to be there.’’

The School Department also deserves a mention for its efforts toward making such projects possible.

During the past 18 months, the department has spent about $1 million to improve technology at the high school, including whole-school wi-fi, Apple devices for teachers and students, whiteboards in every classroom, and training for teachers to develop electronic classroom materials. A modern space known as the iSchool makes it possible for Caradonna and other teachers to create eBooks.

It all adds up to a better education for students. That, of course, is the bottom line.