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Fourth graders prepare for future trades

Gilford Elementary School fourth grader Claudia Cantin looks at an antique iron at the Grange on Belknap Mountain Road during a field trip. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
January 12, 2011
With access to history in their own backyard, Gilford fourth graders once again voyaged to some of their school's neighboring buildings on the annual field trip that highlights their colonial living studies.

While Gilford Elementary School students recently concluded their colonial life unit in the classroom, the annual fourth grade field trip, in conjunction with the Thompson-Ames Historical Society, has prepared students for their next unit – colonial tradesmen.

GES fourth grade teacher Katie Bryant worked along with Gilford Historical Society member Kathy Lacroix this year to make the field trip possible.

Fourth grade classes made their way through the historical Mt. Belknap Grange building, including the store and the homestead, as well as the historic 1834 Union Meetinghouse last Friday. Another field trip is also scheduled for this Friday.

Young students were greeted by society volunteers including Peter Allen, staging as a storekeeper, a printer, a cooper, and explaining colonial tools, Diane Mitton as a milliner, a hatter, a shoemaker, and a tanner, and Lacroix as a schoolmaster.

Bryant explained that these three trades acted out by all society members would serve as examples of trades dating back to the colonial period that students could pick from for projects in their upcoming tradesmen unit.

Students also stood in on Donna Schinlever's speech in the main living area of the Grange, pertaining to life at a homestead (a rural or farm area) in the colonial period.

"The homestead is a review of what we've done so far, and the other three areas introduce the students to the trades they will be learning about," said Bryant. "Later the students will act as tradesmen during our village market day."

Bryant added that while the date of village market day this year has yet to be announced, it will land prior to February vacation, and students can expect to jump into loads of research in order to prepare for the big day.

Related colonial units within GES's fourth grade curriculum not only serve to give students a fountain of historic knowledge, but also remind students how fortunate they are to live in the modern day, which speaker Schinlever spoke of last Friday.

"You couldn't just go to Walmart or buy a mattress," said Schinlever, in the living and bedroom area of the Grange.

While the current bed at the Grange has an antique bed spring, she explained that most people in the colonial era would stuff a large pillow with hay and grain. While this didn't make for the best mattress, many people also stuffed mattresses with pine cones in order to give the room a fresh scent.

During the Colonial period, those at a homestead were also forced to use an outhouse across the yard in cold, winter nights (or an indoor chamber pot) since they had yet to introduce indoor plumbing. They also had to wash their face and hands from a basin. Since the young boys usually had to fetch the water, which must be boiled and then put into the basin, it wasn't uncommon to also bath once a week in these conditions.

She added that young girls and boys had lots of chores helping around the house and the farm and rarely had time to play.

During her presentation, Schinlever also pointed out a faded antique Bible, and informed the students that in a farm area in the colonial period, there were also no documentations or vital records such as birth certificates, and family members would write in names of births and deaths within their prized family Bibles.

Families in the Colonial era made all their own food, clothes, woodwork, and items within the house, and also had to figure out how to keep their homes warm in the winter time and knit their own shawls and sweaters. Students learned that trades were needed and nothing seemed easy during the olden days at the homestead.

"Everything was a big project," said Schinlever. "We are lucky to have some of the conveniences that we have today."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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