Alta Award for Maryland Traditions

    Representatives of Swan Meadow School in Gortner, Maryland and Western Maryland Regional Library in Hagerstown, were present to receive the 2009 ALTA  Tradition Award for Swan Meadow School's Gortner Oral History Project (GOHP) at the Creative Arts Alliance in Baltimore, Maryland on June 11, 2009. Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas of Frostburg State University and a member of the GOHP Committee, presented the award on behalf of Maryland Traditions, a cooperative program of the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland State Arts Council. 

    The ALTA Award celebrates folklife and living traditions in Maryland. Named for folklorist and community leader Dr. Alta Schrock, the ALTA Award stands for Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts, and was created to honor the work of Dr. Alta Schrock, who passed away in 2001. One of the most noted achievements by this Garrett Countian is the development of Penn Alps, Inc. in Grantsville, Maryland. Western Maryland Regional Library recommended the project for the ALTA Tradition Award.

    Four years ago, Western Maryland Regional Library asked Swan Meadow School to collect the oral histories of its Amish and Mennonite community and to produce a book of its local history, for which it would provide funding. Over the next three years,  Swan Meadow's sixth, seventh, and eighth graders researched and wrote a 96-page soft cover book called Piece a Quilt of Gortner that’s in three sections: History of Youghiogheny Glades and Gortner, ABCs of Gortner, and Speaking Pennsylvania Dutch.

    To connect other students and teachers to the book, they also created the Getting to Know Gortner Educators’ Packet, and then boxed up a classroom set of Piece A Quilt of Gortner with the educators’ packet for all Garrett County schools, Garrett County Historical Society, regional colleges, and Frostburg State University. The packet holds lesson plans and their children’s books A Day in the Life of an Amish Girl, A Day in the Life of an Amish Boy; the Sound Lotto Game, alsoFinding Gortner, A History Card Game; and Step into the Shoes of Peter Gortner, A Readers’ Theatre Play, based on the diary of founder Peter Gortner. An audio CD holds the tracks for the Sound Lotto Game, much of the Speaking Pennsylvania Dutch section of the book, as well as the vocabulary and acts one through three of the readers’ theatre play. 

    All pieces of the project were written by the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders with the help of principal Randee Craig and teacher Elizabeth Rees Gilbert. A third piece of the project was the Family Anthology created by each school family to help preserve its own history, traditions, photographs, and stories. 

    Copies of Piece a Quilt of Gortner are available to borrow from public libraries in Garrett, Allegany, and Washington Counties. Funding for the project was provided by Western Maryland Regional Library, NEA Foundation Innovation Grant, Maryland Traditions, Maryland Historical Trust, and Maryland State Arts Council.