Fourth Grade Students to Learn History of Park Forest

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Some students in Park Forest will soon be very familiar with the history of the Village, perhaps more than the average resident.

The Park Forest History Unit for 4th Grades in School District 163 has been prepared by Suzie Brown, Jean Bernstein, and May Wiza, and will be used at Blackhawk and Mohawk schools in March, just after the ISAT. The unit includes a DVD with script, a teacher’s resource packet, and a student activity packet. The unit consists of four sections:

  • The geography and history of the Park Forest area, including
    background on the Potawatomi Indians who lived here,
  • Early pioneers and farmers who lived in the area,
  • Early Park Forest (1946 – 1960), and
  • Park Forest Milestones.

The DVD disc has numerous maps and pictures that help the students locate Park Forest and Chicago Heights in relation to Illinois, the United States, North America, and the world. Through use of a “time machine” that takes them back 500 years, students become familiar with how the Potawatomi Indians lived and traveled along the Sauk Trail. They learn that in 1834 the first area pioneer, John McCoy, his wife, Sabra, and their 8 children stopped their covered wagon in the woods near Thorn Creek, east of what is now Western Avenue, then called Thorn Grove. They decided to stay. The next pioneers settled on opposite corners of Sauk Trail and Western Avenue.

The students also learn that just before the Civil War people in this area helped runaway slaves get to Canada via the Underground Railway. Included is a map and letter about the Frederickson farm, which tells of life here in the 1920s.

The time machine then takes them to 1946, after World War II, when returning veterans needed housing. American Community Builders, formed by Phillip Klutznik, Nathan Manilow, and Carroll Sweet, planned and built Park Forest. The first family moved here in August of 1948. By 1960 85% of Park Forest families had a World War II veteran. Almost half the residents were children.

Students learn how the village had a historic tent meeting on November 27, 1948 about forming a new government, and the Village of Park Forest was incorporated on February 1, 1949. They will learn that Dennis O’Harrow was our first Village President. Our 60th birthday is this year.

The development of the schools, churches, shopping center, library, Aqua Center, etc. in our community is also covered.

Children become familiar with Park Forest Milestones that include the integration of Park Forest, beginning in 1959, two All America City awards, and establishing arts groups like the Park Forest Symphony, the Park Forest Singers, the Park Forest Art Center, and the Illinois Theatre Center. In addition to the Aqua Center, the Thorn Creek Nature Preserve was established.

Students learn that in 1999 Park Forest celebrated its 50th birthday in a big way. In 2003, Park Forest became a part of the Smithsonian exhibit “America on the Move: A Transportation Journey Through American History.” We continue to receive awards. Students can, indeed, be proud to be a part of such a historic and progressive community.

Suzie Brown contributed to this story.