On March 26, metal lunch pails, bandannas, and stacks of schoolbooks lined the hallway outside the grade 4 classroom, and across the way stood a cardboard outhouse complete with moon and starburst cutouts. To a casual observer, it might have appeared as a scene from a Little House on the Prairie remake.
These turn-of-the-century accessories weren't just for fun and games, though the children definitely enjoyed them. They were a part of Santa Catalina's first Little Red Schoolhouse Day, which brought history to life for the fourth-graders.
"The idea for Little Red Schoolhouse Day came when I was searching for ways to showcase the fourth grade and the great things we do with our students," teacher Michele Morton said. "Every year, we visit La Gloria School, a one-room schoolhouse in King City, to get a feel for how school was conducted in the pioneer days. It is a way to help a 10-year-old understand history better."
Little Red Schoolhouse Day tied in with the class' yearlong study of California history, and by the time the students celebrated the event, they had already learned about the explorers and settlers who came to California during the Gold Rush.
In class that day, the students experienced different social norms and school rules that would have been popular at the time. The girls sat on one side of the room and the boys on the other. Mrs. Morton called on them individually to stand and read aloud from two different levels of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers from the 1830s. While reading from the old textbooks, the students came across words such as "menagerie" that now might seem outdated or flowery.
In addition to the reading activity, the children did some math exercises that were typical of a one-room schoolhouse, where a teacher would often instruct students in various grade levels. Our fourth-graders went through a series of math problems on the "chalkboard" that could have been used by a first- or second-grader to add and subtract, a third-grader to multiply, and a fourth-grader to divide.
For lunch, the students carried their pails of food to the lunch tables and enjoyed a picnic outside. During recess, they embraced old-fashioned games such as jacks, graces, hopscotch, and jackstraws.
One of the highlights of Little Red Schoolhouse Day was the afternoon square-dancing finale in the gym. For weeks leading up to the event, Director of Athletics Paul Elliott and Grade 4 Assistant Brenda Bhaskar taught the fourth-graders to square dance during some of their P.E. periods. The initial practices were shaky, but after a month or so, the fourth-graders had perfected their do-si-dos and promenades.
The fourth-graders enjoyed showing off their square-dancing skills.
After a day of "rote learning" and dancing, the students enjoyed cooling off at the "watering hole," a.k.a. the Catalina swimming pool. All in all, save major pioneer hardships, this new tradition brought history to life for our 21st-century natives.
"Little Red Schoolhouse Day is a prime example why Santa Catalina is so extraordinary," Bhaskar said. "We had two visitors walking through our classroom today, and I was so proud to be a part of a fourth grade that expands its curriculum to experience history and other subjects in such hands-on ways."
To view more photos from the event, view this Flickr set.
Mrs. Bhaskar helps with the new vocabulary that students came across in the McGuffey Readers.