“Make your manners,” a woman’s voice says as children come into the one-room schoolhouse through two doors — boys on the left side, girls on the right.
Make your manners?
Miss Patty Henner, portraying a 19th century teacher, explains that children are expected to bow and curtsy to their teacher and then take their seats. Again, separated. Boys on one side of the room and girls on the other.
That was the start of a field trip I chaperoned with my daughter’s third-grade class from Bangor Christian School on Tuesday.
The restored one-room schoolhouse at the Page Farm & Home Museum, on the campus of the University of Maine, is a window to the past. Students were educated in the Holden South District schoolhouse between 1855 and 1955. Since it was trucked to the museum grounds in 1994, scholars have gone there to learn what it was like to be a student in 1867.
The kids started their morning with “slate work” and recitations.
“Toe the line,” Miss Patty says.
What exactly does that mean?
As the class of 8- and 9-year-olds learned, students put their toes to a line and recite while facing the teacher, not the students.
Patty Henner, director of the Page Farm & Home Museum, enjoys portraying a 19th century teacher.
“It’s fun to take the kids back in time and see what school was like in 1867,” Henner said.
As the kids wrote on slate boards, some broke their chalk in half. And when they wrote with pen and ink, some wound up with torn paper and splotches of ink. Both methods of writing — while actually old-fashioned — were new and exciting.
“My favorite part was when we used the slate boards,” said Hope St. John. “We use dry erase boards every day so slate was fun.”
When it came to pen and ink, “It’s hard when you get blobs and try to erase it because it smudges,” said Robbie Giles of his trials with the new tool.
But for some, the best part of the day had nothing to do with learning.
Veronica Mercier enjoyed the separation of boys and girls.
“I wish that could still happen. The boys on one side and the girls on the other,” she said. “Buh-bye (boys)!”