The kids knew the idea behind Plimoth Plantation, the historical living museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where modern people dress in the clothes of long ago and interpret the past. That means you can ask them about TVs and they will look puzzled. Or mention President Obama and they won't know who that is, or even what the United States is, because they are living in 1627, seven years after the Mayflower arrived in the New World.
All our third graders saw a replica, or copy, of the Mayflower. They were able to study it outside...
In the village, it took our kids a little while to get used to the fact that modern people were buried so deep beneath their costumes, that visitors felt as if they were talking to someone who had actually lived in Plimoth almost 400 years ago. These modern people had studied so much that they could answer any questions the kids had.
Once the kids understood that, the questions came fast and furious. One group cornered a village resident for at least minutes. What does he eat everyday? What is he building (a house). How does he use his knife? What was it like coming over on the Mayflower? Was it scary?
They moved on to a women tending her garden. Was she angry at King James, they asked. Not really, she said. Royals do not pay much mind to common folk such as themselves. The villagers had much more anger toward the leaders of their church. They left England, in fact, because they were not allowed to worship the way they wanted to.
The kids learned that this woman also tended her farm animals: cows, sheep, and chickens. Then one student asked if it was possible to be a cow and a bull at the same time. The woman smiled a little. "Well, maybe we'd call that situation a steer," she said.
The kids listened to a man from the Wampanoag tribe he told them how he was making a mishoon - the Wampanoag word for boat - by using fire as a tool to hollow out a tree.
What did Wampanoag kids do? What kind of games did they play long ago? Our Perkins kids got to check out the homemade dolls and toy mishoon they would have used.
That was cool, but the fact that amazed them most of all was that in this Native American culture, there was no breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There was always food on the fire, so people could eat whenever they were hungry.
This was an amazing trip into the past, but it was part of school as well. Each of our students had a journal. They all had to sketch the Mayflower, label its parts, and compare the lifestyle of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans.
The long ride back to South Boston was much quieter than the one to Plimoth. The kids had a lot to think about. Also, they were pretty tired. It had been quite a day