'Trunk' enlightens at Eshleman
BY ELAINE J. JONES, Correspondent
Fifth-graders at Eshleman Elementary School gained a new appreciation for modern conveniences after experiencing life as an early American.
Three Colonial women from Landis Valley Museum visited the Penn Manor school on Friday, Feb. 8, toting a "traveling history trunk" of historic artifacts and hands-on activities.
Teacher Karen Braun said the idea came to her after visiting the museum a few years ago.
Pens, fire, fabric and even children's toys were not easily come by centuries ago.
Forget about e-readers, a bound book was considered a luxury. Instead, students used hornbooks, which Justine Fry and her classmates made on Friday.
"If you were a Colonial kid who got to go to school, you would get one of these," she explained, holding up a flat board by the handle.
"One side would have sayings, and the other side would have the alphabet," Justine said.
The students did their own lettering with quills or pens dipped in an ink well.
It was a rare opportunity for the students to sit at their desks and start a fire -- or at least try.
One student, Parker Slaugh, was able to ignite a small pile of straw by striking flint. Sparks, smoke and a small glow appeared on his clay dish and then quickly extinguished.
"You just have to strike it hard and put your hand in the right place so you don't hit it," Parker explained. He confessed to having some experience as a former Cub Scout and building fires with his dad at their farm in York.
Interestingly, fire was among the leading causes of death among girls and women in Colonial times because of their long hair and braids, said one Landis Valley instructor.
The museum representatives also demonstrated twisting sheep's wool into yarn and a toymaking craft using buttons and string.
Landis Valley offers history classes at the museum as well, but Braun said the traveling history trunk is "a cost-effective way to give kids the hands-on experience," bypassing the expense of a field trip.
The demonstrations focus on Pennsylvania and how archaeologists learn about local history.
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