Thursday, May 27, 2010

Back to the future with fourth-graders

LCHS Museum Curator Marilyn Johnson introduces a roomful of fourth-graders to education back in the days when Puckerbrush School (built in the 1870s) was just one of more than 100 rural schools scattered across Lucas County. 

Thursday morning's visit by well over 100 Chariton Community School fourth-graders to the Lucas County Historical Society Museum campus went off without a hitch, I'm happy to report, on a spectacular late May morning. We couldn't have asked for better weather.

When I got there at 7:30 (running out of the house without my camera --- and I'm not used to the museum camera), Curator Marilyn Johnson already was unlocking the doors and opening various buildings. All hands were on deck by 8 a.m. --- about a dozen volunteer LCHS board members, staffers and friends --- and the buses loaded with students, teachers and room parents rolled up between 8:30 and 8:45.

This annual visit by fourth-graders has been an annual event for many years, but it's still a logistical marvel. Students were divided into four groups by classroom with members of a fifth class divided among the other four so that four groups were constantly on the move, covering 10 stations in a little more than two hours.

Once off the buses and grouped, the kids trooped up the circle drive to deposit their sack lunches by group --- so that they could be retrieved later --- on back pews in Otterbein Church; in one door; out the other.

The students all spent half an hour at Puckerbrush School and seven to 15 minutes at the other stations: upstairs and downstairs in the Stephens House, Otterbein, the log cabin, the Swanson Gallery (vintage vehicles and farm equipment), the mining gallery (which includes business exhibits), the Crist Gallery (where 20th Century exhibits are located), the John L. Lewis Gallery and the Perkins Room, which also contains the commons area, restrooms and the like.

It all went like clockwork, thanks to efficient teachers, really great groups of kids and our volunteer guides who did a fantastic job of keeping the kids informed and entertained.

My station was Otterbein Church. All the kids seemed most fascinated by the fact we still use the old church as a church now and then. I think some started planning ahead when I told them they could hold their weddings there a few years down the road if they cared to do so. One little girl asked if funerals were allowed, too. Hmmm. I expect a funeral would be allowed if someone asked.

Some of the questions were extremely perceptive. I always started by asking why there were two doors into the church. The correct answer was that once upon a time in some churches, like Otterbein in its earliest days, women and girls sat on one side, men and boys on the other --- and they used separate doors. But one little guy guessed that white people used one door and black people, the other --- which led to an interesting little discussion on race relations in Chariton. The truth of the matter is, when Chariton had a sizable black population back in the bad old days, the black population had its own churches and probably wouldn't have been that welcome in white churches.

Everyone wanted to ring the bell, of course, but that we couldn't do because I had to ring the bell at regular intervals to signal that it was time to shift stations and random rings would have just confused the issue. At 11 a.m., however, when the kids were through with the tour and trooped through Otterbein to pick up their lunches to eat on the lawn, everyone who really wanted to was allowed to ring the bell.

All in all, it was a great morning; hard to say who had more fun --- the adults of the kids. They went back to their 21st century school after lunch. I went home and took a nap. Whew!

Students gather on the lawn for lunch at 11 a.m. Thursday after collecting their sack lunches from the back pews of Otterbein Church.

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