Sunday, May 3, 2015

Learning Beyond Four Walls

Learning Beyond Four Walls: Students Engaged in Education 
of the 1800's Compared to 2015 
In April, our fourth graders had the opportunity to explore life as it was in the 1800's.  Students began the day in Heritage Village, Painted Post by raising the flag on a wooden pole.  Master Roberts greeted students from the front of the one room school house and directed the boys to enter through the door on the left, and girls the door on the right.  Once in the school house the students took their seat and began comparing and contrasting the stark differences of the classrooms of the 1800's and 2015. 

Classroom Then and Now
Listening to students make observations about the school room compared to our classroom in the year 2015 was extraordinary.  In education we've moved from single desks in rows, maps on the wall, and rote memorization into a world filled with endless possibilities including access to information with the touch of a fingertip.  We have Google Earth to explore geography all over the world, and ability to connect through Skype to anyone on any continent.  Our students are beyond sitting at a desk memorizing what is in their book, but rather are engaged in collaborative conversations creating their own focus questions, planing for investigations and explore independent interests through passion projects.  The list goes on...

Still, while exploring life in the 1800's in Heritage Village students gained a vast appreciation for life of the past.  In exchange for games on Symbaloo they were challenged by how many pins they could drop into a bottle, get a ring on the stick, walking on stilts, and pushing a ring.  Laughter was heard all around!

Blacksmith Shop
In the blacksmith shop students could feel the heat blasting from the fire as the blacksmith cautiously softened metal to shape into a nail and S hook.  While he hammered away at the malleable metal he told the story of how boys were often sent off at age 12 to be an apprentice to a blacksmith so that they could make money.  The boys in the group raised eyebrows at each other as though they couldn't fathom the idea, but they humored the possibility.  

Kitchen Duties
Following the blacksmith we walked along the pebble path to the kitchen where we met Sarah.  The kitchen was humid and smelled of maple syrup and smoke.  Sarah was straightforward and matter of fact.  The students were enamored by her!  Sarah spoke to them as though they were the travelers from afar who had just reached The Benjamin Patterson Inn.  They learned a lesson about the duties children had such as tending to the root cellar, caring for siblings, and how the young ladies assisted in the kitchen.  We heard about the miles they traveled and Sarah used inquiry to facilitate thinking and conversation on the flow of the Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers, means of transportation, and survival in the brutal winter months.  Next came cooking!  Students had the opportunity to crack eggs, grind corn, stir the mixture, and vote on the sweetener (maple syrup or molasses) to make Johnny Cakes over an open fire.  The Johnny Cakes had mixed reviews! 

Life in the Barn
Our final stop was at the barn.  Within the barn students had the opportunity to use a saw and an ax to get a sample of the work children did in the 1800's.  Our fourth graders were exuberant due to the hands-on experience to grasp life of the past, and their wheels were spinning with just how much life has transformed over the years. 

While our life has incredible differences in comparison to the 1800's, our students not only developed a better understanding for our culture today, but an appreciation for how their very own life came about due to the settlers who endured a multitude of challenges for a chance at life in America.