For a couple of reasons, Garth Robinson ’19 finds himself devoting a summer to research in education, even though it is neither his major nor his minor. Robinson has a long-held personal interest in his topic — a tiny neighborhood school.
Reason number two is a course called Issues in Education, which gave Robinson an overview of the history of American education. “It got me thinking about how this little elementary school, which is in my town, fit into the overall story of education in the United States,” says Robinson, a creative writing major with minors in government and religious studies.
Major: Creative Writing
Hometown: Newburyport, Mass.
High School: Governor's Academy
He is examining the history and significance of the Kelley School, a now defunct public school in Newburyport, Mass. Built in 1872, the red brick school was said to be one of the oldest operating schools in the country when local officials shuttered it in 2007 to save money. At that time it had about 115 students in grades kindergarten through four. One of the kids in that final fourth grade class was Robinson.
“My starting point is to begin to understand its history a little more, and put that history within the larger context of the history of American education generally,” says Robinson, “But then I’m trying to track down about 10 to 15 graduates of the Kelley School, so anywhere from the 1940s until ’07 when I left. I’m going to interview those people and attempt to draw some conclusion about small-school education or about neighborhood education.”
His local newspaper wrote about his project.
One of his advisors on the project is Susan Mason, director of the College Education Studies Program and the professor who taught the Issues in Education course. The other advisor is Meredith Madden, visiting assistant professor of education studies. An Emerson Grant from the College funds the research.
Robinson is only slightly surprised to be researching a topic that is unrelated his major. “In a way it’s weird that it has nothing to do with my major, but in many other ways it’s just part of the whole Hamilton thing, more than anything else — being able to go outside of the department and generally follow things that you’re passionate about regardless of whether they go along with each other or fit together,” he says.