Needham History Center & Museum Needham History Center & Museum, Needham Massachusetts 02492

1850’s Schoolhouse Day

From Elocution to Penmanship, a day at the One-Room Schoolhouse

shows Third Graders what life was like for kids 150 years ago.

 schoolday 2

For many Needham third graders, Fall is Back to School time – way back, as in 1850. Instead of Writer’s Workshop and hands-on science, they struggled with ciphering, elocution, and the inky mysteries of the quill pens. Instead of Morning Meeting, they greeted their teacher with a bow or a curtsey.

The “1850 Schoolhouse Day” takes the class through an authentic one-room school day, with lessons in reading, arithmetic, memorization, elocution, and penmanship. The class meets in the Needham History Center & Museum’s Upper Falls Schoolhouse. The Schoolhouse, built in 1842, is Needham’s only surviving one-room school. It is now part of the Society’s complex on Central Avenue. The School Day was developed jointly by the Needham History Center & Museum and the Needham Public Schools, and was funded by a grant from the Needham Education Foundation.

Preparation for the Day begins several weeks in advance. Students are expected to arrive at the Schoolhouse with the kinds of food and clothes that 19th-century children had – no baseball hats, no logo t-shirts, no GoGurts. The students practice memorization, elocution, and 19th century manners. They also choose their “character” – the name and brief history of a real Needham child who attended a school like this in 1850. The names are linked to local land-marks (“this street is named after your family” or “you were born in this house”). Often the kids have “siblings” and “cousins” in the class.

The “1850 Schoolhouse Day” supplements the third grade history curriculum. By putting themselves into the past instead of just reading about it, the children gain a better understanding of history, and of the Town they live in. As one child put it, “It was fun going into the past and seeing what it looked like and seeing why they lived this way.”

3d Graders Visit One-Room Schoolhouse for an 1850s Experience. (Globe West, 12 Nov 2006)

Schoolhouse Program Background

And MORE!  Town Meeting in 1775 for the 5th-Graders