What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! I have been having fun sharing history with the younger generation. I went into the Hamburg High School for three days, sharing with them different primary resources that were not found on the computer, cell phones or google… what a shock, there were actually books and artifacts that could be used to learn about the past. I brought some old atlas of our area, to show how from 1866 to 1880 the town lines changes, town names changes, and you could research different families by seeing who and where land/farms were. Then they got to use the old bound newspapers to continue their search, also finding old ads, from the area to see what indeed was here. I had two different newspapers from our area that recorded a new firetruck in 1921. It was like looking at articles for two different trucks, two different points of views, that was fun for them. I took artifacts for them to see if I could stump the kids, and the one that stumped all the ages I talked to…. a wooden egg on a stick… or as us old timers know,… a darning egg for socks. Well why would you have one of those?! they all ask, which opened up the discussion of how socks, were not always bought in a pack of 6 or 12 at Walmart, but had to be used and worn for a long period of time, and you did not want to walk on a lump where you mended the sock. I totally loved the 11th graders I got to visit their classrooms for 3 days, absolutely a joy. They could think outside the box and were amazed at what all they could find out and learn. We even went into a discussion of how food was made and stored, learned about “Pop” Warner and the fact that not only was he a coach for football, but he could paint as well, to ink wells and quills to write with, how ink was made and with what, salt wells, candle molds, that had a lot stumped and I learned from them as well.
The next group of kids I talked to was the 7th graders. They were a little tougher, They also got to see old photographs, and learned that you had to sit still for up to 2 minutes for the photo to come out, and how the photographers would sometime travel around and take photos, and you can age the photographs by looking at their clothes, hairstyles and other items that were in the picture. They too also enjoyed the old papers, the old car ads, (learned they were also called automobiles) were amazed at how articles were written, how many cars brands there were, the size of the tires and then they learned about type setting that the newspapers had to use to print the papers. They got to learn about the schools around here and what classes were offered. I had fun with them as I took a artificial arm with me to show them. The person it belong to had loss his arm during the Civil War, but came back and lived a long and productive life as a farmer. At the time, they were not paying much attention, and you know raising your voice does not always work, so I used the arm as a selfie stick, putting a cell phone in the hand ( had a very strong thumb spring still) and extended the arm to be straight. When the kids ask me what I was doing, I told them I needed a hand to take a selfie with a cell phone. Then one student looked up more about the arm and discovered that it was designed in 1857 and patented in 1863, told us what kind of wood it was and paint. I was very impressed by his research.. I was only with them for one day, but think I got them thinking of primary resources away from the computer, cell phones and Google.
We had a group come through from Clymer Historical Society to see what all we had at the Mercantile/Heritage Building and us at the Lucy Bensley Genealogy Center. They seem to enjoy all we had to offer and look through some of the books and items we had at the building.
This last week, was 4th graders came in all 3 days we were opened. So much fun again! I love sharing my enjoyment of History with kids. We played a game that I called, what is in Grandma trunk? I started with .. If you found this trunk ( a large suitcase) in the attic (and explained what was a attic for those that may not know) what are these items and how do you think they were used. I started off with a rug beater. It was fun to hear them try to figure out what it was… Why not plug it in a vacuum cleaner ? was asked., Were they even invented yet? into what? I replied, and then went on to explain, there was not electricity in the house then. What?! and then told them how you would pull the rug out (not beat the rug on the floor in place) and beat it outside and then take it back in. That’s a lot of work, one little boy said. I had some tin type photos, followed by the 3 X 5 photos that the photographers would take in the 1880s, some pieces of a quilt were in there as well as other items. Then I went into a what is genealogy? I had created several forms for them to take home, a family tree, questions you might ask your grandparents, old photos, and to try to get the information, do you have a favorite food item your grandmother or Aunt makes, some fun facts and such.
Through all of this was laughter, and great questions and maybe, just maybe, I opened some eyes and minds for these kids to look back into their families, or learn a little about the history of the town. I did have one student that told me, I made history interesting…. Now that I will take as a compliment!