Museum gives children hands-on history lesson

August 29, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- Families stepped back in time Saturday at the Jonathan Hager House in City Park.

Gaela Shoop, a recreation assistant with the City of Hagerstown, presented a hands-on lessons in colonial life at Colonial Games and Family Fun Day.

Twelve children took a tour through the home of Hagerstown founder Jonathan Hager. Each child was given gloves and permission to touch relics that are typically off-limits.

"We wanted to make it hands-on to get children interested and motivated to learn about history," Shoop said. "If you can get them interested in one period, it helps motivate them to investigate other periods."


Shoop said children handled horn beakers -- cups crafted from bull's horns -- that were set on the table in the Hager family's dining room. At the wooden yarn winder -- a machine used to make skeins of yarn -- the children learned that if they sang "Pop! Goes the Weasel," the winder would spin 40 times, then "pop" the skein, ready for knitting.

In the girls' bedroom, the children were amused to learn that babies used to be tied into their cradles with a zig-zagging rope.

"This was not done for behavioral reasons," Shoop said, "but because of dangers that lurked in the home. There were open fireplaces and open staircases without rails."

In addition to the tour of the home, the children explored the related museum, tried on period clothing and played games fancied by children in colonial times.

Marguerite Florek of Waynesboro, Pa., took her four children, Valencia, 10, Aurora, 8, Stephen, 7, and Andrew, 2, to the event. Florek said her girls were especially interested in the lessons because they related to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books they read and to their American Girl dolls.

Valencia said she liked touring the house and learning about the cooling device in the cellar.

"I think it's pretty cool that they could keep food cool down there by setting it in the water. It made me think about those times," she said. "It was probably a lot harder than it is now, especially for the girls, having to wear those petticoats. And it was probably harder to cook and to have to depend on the cow for milk, and stuff like that."

Shoop led the children in playing quoits, a game similar to ring toss, and Kegel, which is like bowling with a wooden ball and pins. 

Jeff and Ruth Ebersole, 33 and 29 respectively, of Fayettville, Pa., sat with the baby as their five other children played.

"The children really enjoy it," Jeff Ebersole said. "We like good historical things. It's nice for them to learn the history of Hagerstown and how it got started."

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