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Third-graders get a walking view of Henniker’s history

  • MIchele Rogers raises her hand to announce another 1000 feet walked on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014. The group would cheer at every 1000 that were measured by the measuring wheel. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    MIchele Rogers raises her hand to announce another 1000 feet walked on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014. The group would cheer at every 1000 that were measured by the measuring wheel.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Emma Huddleston, 9, and her mom Jamie hold hands while walking on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/>

    Emma Huddleston, 9, and her mom Jamie hold hands while walking on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)


  • Emma Dobbins, 8, laughs while under an umbrella as the rain starts to pick up on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Emma Dobbins, 8, laughs while under an umbrella as the rain starts to pick up on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)



  • Aidan Johnson, 9, raises his hand during the presentations by his classmates at Pats Peak on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Aidan Johnson, 9, raises his hand during the presentations by his classmates at Pats Peak on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)




  • Raymond Kennett, 9, (center) wipes off rainwater from his soaked face after stopping for a break at Pats Peak in Henniker while on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Raymond Kennett, 9, (center) wipes off rainwater from his soaked face after stopping for a break at Pats Peak in Henniker while on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)




  • Daniel Gagne (center) checks his pedometer while on a break from the Henniker History Walk at Pats Peak. The students have spent part of the year counting their steps. <br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Daniel Gagne (center) checks his pedometer while on a break from the Henniker History Walk at Pats Peak. The students have spent part of the year counting their steps.

    {(credit)}




  • Peg Keeler (left) leads the pack of over 70 people during the Henniker History Walk while also measuring the distance in feet travelled with her wheel on Friday, June 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

    Peg Keeler (left) leads the pack of over 70 people during the Henniker History Walk while also measuring the distance in feet travelled with her wheel on Friday, June 13, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)




  • MIchele Rogers raises her hand to announce another 1000 feet walked on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014. The group would cheer at every 1000 that were measured by the measuring wheel. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Emma Huddleston, 9, and her mom Jamie hold hands while walking on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/>
  • Emma Dobbins, 8, laughs while under an umbrella as the rain starts to pick up on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Aidan Johnson, 9, raises his hand during the presentations by his classmates at Pats Peak on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Raymond Kennett, 9, (center) wipes off rainwater from his soaked face after stopping for a break at Pats Peak in Henniker while on the Henniker History Walk on Friday, June 13, 2014.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Daniel Gagne (center) checks his pedometer while on a break from the Henniker History Walk at Pats Peak. The students have spent part of the year counting their steps. <br/><br/>{(credit)}<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Peg Keeler (left) leads the pack of over 70 people during the Henniker History Walk while also measuring the distance in feet travelled with her wheel on Friday, June 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>

The rain was picking up, and so was Peg Keeler’s step. Protected from the drizzle by her bright-blue raincoat, Keeler set a brisk walking pace down Flanders Road yesterday for the dozens of Henniker third-graders, parents and teachers following in her wake.

With one hand, the Henniker Community School physical education teacher pushed a bright-orange measuring wheel, and with the other she grasped the hand of a third-grader wearing a see-through poncho.

Suddenly, she and the pack of students surrounding her glanced at the spinning wheel and shouted out, “One thousand!”

One thousand feet closer to the finish. In all, the group walked about 66,528 feet – 12.6 miles – through town yesterday as part of the annual Henniker History Walk

for the school’s third-grade class. The walk, which Keeler founded more than 20 years ago, has become a rite of passage for students in the town, teaching them the value of exercise, town history and community.

“It’s now embedded in this town . . . older people in particular look at the kids as a way of carrying on the tradition of Henniker,” Keeler said. “Of course (the students) are not going to remember everything . . . but they will remember their bits and pieces and make their contribution to this town, that’s what’s important.”

For Keeler, the walk is one of her big contributions. And yesterday’s was not only the 20th anniversary of the Henniker iteration of the event, it also marked Keeler’s last time leading the procession. She will retire at the end of the school year, and pass the tradition on to the next physical education teacher.

“I have been teaching here for 28 years. I consider Henniker my home,” she said before the walk. “I am glad to give back in this way.”

Beneath her raincoat, Keeler sported a neon-green Class Walk 1991 T-shirt. That was when Keeler launched the event, after hearing a lecture about the health benefits of walking.

For the walk’s first four years, the students hiked to the State House in Concord, stopping at New Hampshire Audubon along the way. But then, Keeler and other teachers decided to alter the route since in third grade the students study Henniker’s history. “I did some research and came up with sites and places to see, and I devised a route,” Keeler said.

That route has morphed over the years, but yesterday’s included a stop in Henniker’s Quaker District, where students got a glimpse of what life was like in the one-room schoolhouse where all the grades used to learn together. They visited the location of the town’s first meetinghouse, which was built in 1770 and burned to the ground 10 years later. They took a lunch stop at Pats Peak, where some of the students gave presentations about the town’s first physician house and ropewalk.

In the weeks leading up to the 12-mile walk, students practiced during gym class by taking walks to historic landmarks close to the school, such as the location of an old yarn factory, the bank building downtown that the Henniker Hotel used to occupy and the former train depots, Keeler said. Afterward, Keeler would show the kids photos from the 1800s that illustrated how Henniker once looked.

“They are just astounded, making those connections and building a sense of ownership with town,” she said. “Plus, when you combine it with physical aspects, the health benefits, they are just so confident when they finish. It always brings tears to my eyes.”

For many students, and even some parents, the walking history tour exposed them to parts of town they never knew existed and helped them understand how Henniker has grown.

It was the first time Jennifer Davis and her son Jackson, who have lived in town for seven years, visited the Quaker District. That part of the walk, especially the one-room schoolhouse, was 9-year-old Kaiden Hunter’s favorite spot.

“It’s fun to learn about something I didn’t know existed. . . . We got to learn about history, and actually get to see where it is,” he said, walking a few steps ahead of his mom, Jessica Gorhan.

The walk is a great way for kids to get to know the whole town, Gorhan said. “I think they take for granted that we have cars and we go to stores to buy our food,” she said. Henniker may have a small school comparatively, but it was important for her son to learn that there once were classes of 18 kids that made up the student body at the one-room schoolhouse.

Many parents joined the walk yesterday.

During the stretch between the Quaker District and Pats Peak, 8-year-old Emma Huddleston walked with her mom, Jamie. “Before, I thought it was a small town,” Emma said. She lives in the center of Henniker and said she didn’t even know the roads she was walking on yesterday existed.

In preparation for the long walk, Emma’s mother took her on their own practice routes when she got off work. Oftentimes, they hiked along the riverbed near their house. “We have enjoyed those,” Jamie Huddleston said. “It’s like special mommy-daughter time.”

More than historical sites, the kids saw nature. “We found 57 salamanders,” Jackson Davis said. “Look, another one there,” he said, pointing to a tiny, orange amphibian resting among the rocks on the road’s shoulder. Emma said she counted 64.

In spite of the rain, 9-year-old Justin Daniel said his favorite part of the walk was being outside. “It’s nice to be in the woods, it smells like mud,” he said. At the end of the summer, Justin is moving away from Henniker, and he said he will miss the trees, the places and the people.

With less than a quarter-mile left before the group arrived at Pats Peak, the clouds opened up and the rain began to pour. “My pants used to be light-tan, now look at them, they are brown!” one third-grader said.

During lunch, a table of third-grade boys munched on sandwiches, chicken wings and Cheez-Its.

“History is boring for people because they are told it, they don’t get to see it,” said Nathan Feudener, 9. Across the table, Connor Roberts said, “It’s not boring because you actually get to observe it.”

“It makes me feel happier to live here,” Daniel Gagne said. A chorus of “yeah!” echoed around the table.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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