1918. A century ago. One hundred years ago. What can we learn from so long ago and that simpler time? That was one of the questions for my fourth grade class at F.E. Burleson as we traveled to the Rosenwald School experience at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville.
Our time travel began as soon as we exited the bus at Burritt. Our school teacher/tour guide, Ms. Little, led us to a home that predated the Civil War and gave us a brief history of the time period and Rosenwald schools.
Students learned that Rosenwald schools developed as a partnership between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald to provide better educational opportunities for black students. Hartselle, our hometown, once was home to a Rosenwald school!
Students were further transformed to the time period by dressing gentlemen with suspenders and the ladies with pinafore dresses. Lunches were repacked from paper bags to metal lunch pails or baskets with cloth napkins.
Students lined the walk to enter school, and one had the honor of ringing the bell to usher in our classroom time. Once inside the classroom, students began the day by reciting the pledge as it was in 1918. We learned that the pledge has been revised over time. The pledge from 1918 is, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Students then sang “My Country ‘tis of Thee.”
Once routine school day lessons were complete, students began a reading lesson by reciting a poem and picking out metaphors, synonyms and antonyms. We learned that math lessons consisted of many word problems of real life situations, such as selling land and cattle since many students would be working in agriculture after their education.
Penmanship was a favorite among students as they wrote with a dip pen. They practiced simple strokes and then were able to sign their name. Many wanted to replace their school pencils when they returned for the nib pens and ink!
“Drop the handkerchief” was the game for after lunch. In this game all students stand in a circle. One player has the handkerchief and drops it behind one of the students in the circle. That student must grab the handkerchief and run after the player and try to tag them before they get back to their original space. If they aren’t successful they must wait in the middle.
Vocational training ended our 1918 classroom experience. Vocational training in 1918 might have been home economics for girls and agriculture lessons for boys lessons. Today we learned to weave a small basket.
What can we learn from life in 1918? Here is what the students had to say…
I learned that first through eighth grade could all be taught in the same room! - Libby
I learned that students had to write on a slate with chalk. - Alex
I learned that the girls could not wear pants. - Brooklyn
I learned that making a basket can be very hard. - Sydney
I learned that first grade did cursive. - Tucker
A fun day was had by all with a lot of learning mixed in. Who said history was boring?