This morning we all hopped on the bus at 7:30 to make an hour and a half trip to Sturbridge, MA, home of Old Sturbridge Village, an 1830’s village. I had high expectations for the day as we were told we would be making dinner for ourselves they way the early Americans did. I was not disappointed! This turned out to be a very informative, engaging day.
We began with a tour of the village(along with about 1100 students, who at times cold be very pushy, but hey they are kids right!?) Our guide did an excellent job of explaining the various buildings and activities occurring throughout the area. We saw a potter at work as well as a blacksmith, farmers, women, and a school mistress. As I was walking around the village-which was quite large-I began to think that this was very “modern”. 1830 is not exactly what most would consider to be the modern age, but compared to Plimoth Plantation it is very modern.
Both of these villages were similar in that they were subsistent farmers and did what they needed to survive but how they did these were quite different. The gardens and farmlands in Sturbridge were much larger than Plimoth and were not planted in raised plots. We were told that most of the land, if it was not too steep, was used for either animals or crops. It was also obvious that the villagers were dependent on each other. They traded their goods and helped each other when a need arose; Sturbridge also had a store in which villagers could get items imported from lands as far away as China. At Plimoth, the villagers were lucky to get items from as far away as England.
One of the most interesting parts of the day besides the tour was the hands on activities and meal preparation. My group created a reverse painting-we traced a picture on a transparent piece of plastic, painted it, then turned it over. The other groups did printing press/writing, and weaving. All seemed to enjoy their activities. We also played many childrens’ games of the time. The last adventure of the day was to prepare a meal for the group. We made roast chicken(this cooked in a metal roasting oven that we had to time and turn the rotisserie every 10 minutes), stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, salad, carrots, lemonade, and cake. One group made butter and we made whipped cream(using a whisk made out of sticks is not exactly like opening a tub of Cool Whip or breaking out the hand mixer!!) All of this was completed in less than 2 hours. Not like Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals but pretty amazing none-the-less! I enjoyed the meal much more than the meal we had at Plimoth-maybe because it was more “modern”.
I must say that this was a very enjoyable day. Any time students have the opportunity to “do” history they are going to be engaged, and I most certainly was! I would love to bring my own children here sometime.