TOWNSEND — Every spring, the third-grade classes from Spaulding School spend a morning experiencing the Townsend Historic District.
“It’s hands-on. It’s visual. It’s auditory. It’s all the areas of learning for them,” Jennifer Terkanian said.
For the last 10 years, the teacher has brought the kids in her classroom for a day run by the Townsend Historical Society at the harbor.
Volunteers dressed in period garb explain what they are doing and give the visitors a chance to try it for themselves.
Barrel-making was one of the early industries in Townsend.
“They love the coopering,” Terkanian said.
The students, wearing non-period safety glasses, tried their hand at splitting staves from a log. Judging by the grins as they whacked away with a large mallet-like stick, they were certainly having fun at the activity led by Jock Snaith, a furniture maker.
The more domestic side of life was on display in the Reed Homestead.
Deb Jones, who came in from Petersham, explained kitchen activities from cooking to candle-making.
Without a thermometer, she had to stick her arm in the beehive oven to make sure it was hot enough to bake bread.
Some of the wheat, which might have been ground at the grist mill a few doors down, was of finer quality that the rest.
“If we knew the minister was coming over, we’d use that flour,” she said. Otherwise, it was brown bread for the family.
Upstairs, Marilynn Raleigh explained the origin of the term “sleep tight.” The mattresses on old beds were supported by rope webbing that needed to be taut so there was no sag.
Traveling over the railroad tracks between the Reed Homestead past the cooperage and over to the grist mill, Dwight Fitch told the classes about the history of early industry in Townsend — the first dams and mills and the arrival of the railroad.
Then, there was the schoolhouse.
“There’s something new each year,” Terkanian said.
A one-room schoolhouse was set up in the Harbor Church complete with primers and a teacher with a ruler.
Maria Lanoue, a reading specialist from Bennington, Vt., taught on Wednesday and Claire Kauppi took over on Thursday.
Like students from another era, the Townsend students were made to sit quietly on benches and learn the rules. The teacher smacked the ruler on the table to emphasize her statements.
Once the rules were established, the students had a chance to practice writing with a quill and ink on paper.
The four classes who visited the society May 23 and 24 will have a special history project that ties in with their visit.
Each pupil will research one of the historic sites in town and share the knowledge.
The Historical Society will stay open a few afternoons to accommodate the scholars after school, Site Administrator Jeannie Bartovics said.
The Massachusetts Curriculum Framework determines that third-graders study local history.
The trip to Townsend Harbor was their second field trip this year. They went to Old Sturbridge Village in the fall.
The day before the students began to arrive in the harbor, Bartovics visited the classrooms. Her information was fresh in their minds as they participated in the activities.
“They are fascinated to learn about the history of their town,” teacher Cathy O’Dell said.