Fourth Graders Learn about Colonial Life

February 20, 2019

Fourth-graders at the Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School recently learned how to be tinsmiths, make Jacob's Ladders, play hopscotch and Hula Hoop and behave in a colonial-style classroom. The Colonial Day program was brought to Croton-Harmon by the Center for Environmental Education at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES.

In the classroom, students pounded hammers and nails into thin pieces of tin, making silhouette designs that, when held up to a light, created artistic effects. In a cartography class, they designed maps of their own homes. And in another class, they used glue, pieces of wood and small strips of ribbon to make their own Jacob's Ladders. Classes rotated so that all the fourth-graders could try their hands at the variety of Colonial pastimes.
Perhaps the hardest class was Dame School, where students learned how disciplined school was for some colonial children. Motivated by the religious needs of a Puritan society and their own economic needs, some colonial women in 17th century rural New England opened small, private schools in their homes to teach reading and catechism to young children.

Mistress Catherine, known in the 21st century as BOCES program assistant Catherine Leist, showed students how to write in colonial script and challenged them by enforcing strict, 18th century behavior norms. For example, did you know that in Colonial times, you could be asked to stand facing the wall if you didn't know the answer to a question? Or perhaps sit with a dunce cap on your head?

The lesson? "Think of how incredibly lucky you are to be students today," said Ms. Leist. "You are taught by teachers who put all their effort into making things positive and bright for you."