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Virtual tour links history, modern issue

August 2nd, 2022 |

Written by Jenny Roberts for the Morning Call

A new virtual tour puts spotlight on historic Lehigh Valley site and how it dealt with a modern problem Girl Scout earns Gold Award for project focusing on Monocacy Way Trail, Moravian sustainability.

When it comes to modern-day sustainability, Anna Lazewski thinks we could all learn a thing or two from the Moravians, who settled in Bethlehem more than 280 years ago.

“When you think of colonial times, they didn’t have solar panels or anything we think of as being sustainable today, but what they did is they didn’t waste a single thing,” said Lazewski, 17, a rising senior at Liberty High School.

Lazewski recently completed her Girl Scout Gold Award — the highest award a Girl Scout can earn — by creating a virtual, interactive tour for the Monocacy Way Trail at Bethlehem’s historic Burnside Plantation, the city’s first private home. Lazewski’s tour explains the connection between colonial times and sustainability, as well as the importance of the Monocacy Creek to the colonial Moravians, a group of Germanic Protestants who lived in the area. She unveiled the mobile project, on which she has worked for more than a year, last month at the city’s Blueberry Festival.

“In the news today, with how climate change is really starting to affect our planet and making weather more severe and really having a lot of negative impacts on our environment, I wanted to address that in my project,” Lazewski said. “I thought it was a current issue that could be applied to this historic content.”

Visitors can access Lazewski’s content on Historic Bethlehem’s Culture Connect online platform by scanning one of the two QR codes posted on signs at Burnside Plantation. Visitors can then use their smartphones to click through the interactive trail tour or listen to the audio tour while walking by the Monocacy Creek.

There’s historical information about the site and poetry prompts, along with quizzes on Burnside trivia. There’s also a letterbox along the trail that visitors can open by solving clues. Once they crack the code, they can sign and stamp a visitor log.

“We get a lot of visitors who walk along the Monocacy Way Trail, but don’t necessarily know too much about it,” said Keith Sten, museum sites and education manager for Historic Bethlehem. “We figured if she would want to start developing something that would be like a mobile tour that people can just use on their phone … that was a really good project.”

Sten said Lazewski’s virtual project complements Historic Bethlehem’s mobile self-tour for the city’s Heritage Trail.

Lazewski has volunteered with Historic Bethlehem at Burnside Plantation’s summer kitchen, cooking meals from historical recipes for visitors to try, since 2021. Through this experience, she learned about the history of the plantation — which was farmed by Moravian community members, not enslaved people — and the ways Moravians repurposed food and materials so nothing went to waste.

Ash from a fire could be used for lye to make soap. Scraps of wood could be fashioned into tools or utensils. Even beef fat could be used to make candles.

“You can recognize how people so long ago knew how to take care of their environment, so they could still keep living there,” Lazewski said. “It makes you recognize how today, sometimes you can be a little wasteful, even myself.”

Joanne Ritter, a lead foodways instructor, volunteered with Lazewski at summer kitchen cooking demonstrations and shared her knowledge of the plantation with Lazewski during the research phase of her project.

“Sometimes she came up with questions I didn’t know the answers for, so I’d have to go and do research myself, so that was kind of cool that she sparked that in me,” said Ritter, who has been a volunteer with Historic Bethlehem for 20 years.

“She’s one of the best volunteers I’ve ever had. She’s amazing,” Ritter said of Lazewski. “The questions that she asked and her interest are just phenomenal.”

Michelle Sabetti, a third grade teacher at Hanover Elementary, said she plans to use Lazewski’s project in her class next school year for lessons on the Moravians. Sabetti said her students take a field trip to Burnside Plantation every year.

“This is a great connection to help the kids prepare for that field trip, and we can actually use it there as well,” she said. “Each of her modules that she mentions in the self-guided tour, like the plants and the vegetation that grow in the area that the Moravians relied on [and] the Monocacy Creek, are all important pieces of why the Moravians settled here.”

Lazewski is meeting with the district in August to talk about the process for incorporating her project into Bethlehem Area School District’s curriculum for third grade. Assistant Superintendent Jack Silva said the first step in this process would be to pilot the content in a third grade classroom, like Sabetti’s, before spreading its use across the district.

As part of her Gold Award, Lazewski also led a team of volunteers in cleaning up the trail along the creek, removing graffiti from rocks and planting wildflowers.

She has completed several community service projects throughout Bethlehem as a Girl Scout, from collecting donations for a homeless shelter to creating blankets for patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Lazewski is also working toward earning the Congressional Award, a service award given out to young Americans by Congress.

When she graduates from high school next spring, she hopes to continue pursuing service work by studying international affairs in college, with the intention of leading service projects abroad for a nongovernmental organization one day.

But until then, Lazewski plans to continue making an impact locally, which isn’t unexpected if you ask anyone who has volunteered with her.

“I’m so proud of her and just still amazed with her and really happy and not surprised that she was able to accomplish all this,” Ritter said.

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