William Balch settled in Alvarado in 1851, not realizing that the community would later become one of the largest towns in Johnson County Texas.
In 2006, the small community south of Fort Worth had a population of 4,067.
When the curriculum suggested that the teacher select a town with a history important in the development of the state of Texas, Alvarado Elementary South fourth-grade teacher Sandy Stevenson felt the city of Alvarado would be ideal due to its rich history.
Stevenson, in her first year at Alvarado, has taught for six years.
“I live in Alvarado and, when gasoline prices went up, I began teaching here. I had taught in the Duncanville ISD before coming here,” she said.
“When I saw what the curriculum was suggesting, I knew that I wanted a project that would hold the students’ interest. We began our project called ‘History of Alvarado, Growth and Development, Past, Present and Future,” Stevenson said.
The students embraced the project about their hometown because it was about their history. During their research they found out many interesting facts they didn’t know previously.
“One of my students found out that the first mayor of Alvarado was a relative,” Stevenson said.
Students interviewed relatives for information and one student found a great source for a picture at the local Brookshire’s grocery store. The store has many historical pictures of Alvarado at the top of the walls for customers to view while doing their grocery shopping.
Stevenson gave students five choices on how to do their project. A diorama (model) could be used to show the past and present of the city. A game board could be made showing historical places. Media presentations with pictures, videos or recordings could be used to tell about the history of their city. Posters and pictures could be used to show the time line of the city. A brochure could be prepared with information that would attract tourists to Alvarado.
“One student did a brochure which had to include our population and growth, our amenities, entertainment, something about our history and a map and directions on how to get here,” Stevenson said.
Another student did an outstanding PowerPoint presentation on the outlaws of Alvarado, she said.
The project lasted a month and a half with 75 students participating. Students utilized the community library for research so frequently that the library left the books out on a table for the students to use. Students also utilized the computers a great deal to do their research, doing a lot of research outside school hours, and often asked questions as they utilized their research skills, Stevenson said.
During the course of the project, the mayor and judge were interviewed by the students. One of the parents had a picture of the original city hall building that not even the city had. The city has requested a copy for its records, she said.
As the project progressed, parents became involved as they drove their children to the library and historical places in the city.
“The parents and students all became excited and they wanted to know about the history of our city and they wanted to see all the historical places,” Stevenson said.
When the students saw photographs of the early years of Alvarado, they couldn’t believe how lively the town square was with Model T’s all around it. Stevenson said the students noticed that some of the photos show power lines while the more recent photos don’t.
What started out as a class project ended up being something much of the city took part in as students did interviews, took photographs and visited the historical sites such as the cemetery and Methodist Church. Residents were excited as they shared their history with the students.
“I had no idea that the students would be as involved and excited as they were about the history of their city. They did their own research and I was able to learn a lot about Alvarado that I didn’t know before this project,” Stevenson said.
The project is on display at the Alvarado Public Library, with Stevenson planning on doing the same project next year for fourth-graders.