The celebration of the year-long Anne Hutchinson Year came to P.S. 78 recently, which proudly claims the colonial feminist leader as its namesake.
Before the school year ended, on Monday, June 20, students performed a series of skits and activities on stage at the school on 1400 Needham Avenue that showcased their knowledge of the 17th century colonist, and civil and women’s rights activist who lived Baychester.
Joining the students in celebration of their new-found knowledge of local colonial history was Toby Liederman who is organizing a year-long educational and cultural celebration of the 420th anniversary of the life of Hutchinson.
She was joined by the educational consultant for the project Dr. Beryl Dorsett, who has served as an assistant education secretary for President Ronald Regan. Helping the students and their teachers create the performances was Sheila Maldonado of the Teachers & Writers Collaborative.
“What I love is the enthusiasm that the teachers and students have for learning about Anne Hutchinson,” Liederman said. “I believe that this is the first time in recent memory that students at the school have celebrated Hutchinson’s life.”
Murals of Hutchinson adorn the main hallways of P.S. 78, and as the students performed a game show skit with questions dealing with Hutchinson, Dorsett reflected on how so much in the community is named after Hutchinson.
“When this school was named after Hutchinson, it must have been a courageous decision because of her bravery, courage, strength, religious belief, and her tenacity to move from England to America to enjoy religious freedom,” Dorsett said. “The school is located in a neighborhood where you have the Hutchinson River and the Hutchinson River Parkway, but many of the children were not even aware that she was a woman.”
The event provided a teachable moment where the children had the opportunity to articulate their newfound knowledge of Hutchinson as a fighter for freedom of speech and religion, and incorporate aspects of the her life into their own in the formative years, Dorsett said.
Using a children’s book called Anne Hutchinson’s Way, written by Jeannine Atkins, Maldonado was able to bring the students to a greater understanding of the life of Hutchinson.
“In the performances, the children became the characters in Anne Hutchinson’s life, if not Anne herself,” Maldonado said. “They were able to put themselves in the shoes of children in the Bronx who lived 400 years ago.”