By TRAVIS MORSE
---- — MT. VERNON – All 15 slots have been filled for the Day in the Life of a Prairie Child program July 10 at the Jefferson County Historical Village. It will be the last of these events for the summer.
Even so, there will likely be another session in September or October for a public, private, or home school class.The unique program offers local children the chance to experience 19th Century living first-hand through a variety of games and activities. The July 10 event, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., will take place on the village grounds, 1411 N. 27th St.“We've never had any kids that didn't have a good time,” said retired teacher Sharon Nichols, who coordinates the program. “My quest in it is for kids to learn that history is not boring and that there's much to be learned from the past so we don't make the same mistakes.”The Historical Village has hosted the Prairie Child program regularly since 2009, and its popularity has continued to grow. The event is usually held for the public during the summer, with openings for 15 children in each session. The last session was held June 5.However, the program is also held periodically during the school year for home school groups or smaller sized public or private school classes. Two of these sessions were held in May.“That's always a possibility,” said Jamie Wheeler, director of community relations for the Historical Village, of the school year sessions. “We can always work around that. We can find a date and accommodate them usually.”The program incorporates a wide range of old-fashioned activities. Kids start off the day in the one-room schoolhouse where they compete in a spelling bee and “ciphering” matches, as well as practicing their penmanship with a feather pen and ink. A ciphering match is a type of math contest where students compete at the chalkboard by solving math problems.Then, later in the day, the children do chores outside, including washing clothes and rug beating.“It's just to give the kids a feeling of what life was like in the 1800s,” Wheeler said.Organizers are also incorporating some intriguing new elements to the July 10 event, including dulcimer lessons and a storytelling program. A dulcimer is a kind of lap guitar that was popular in the 19th Century.Nichols said she is especially excited about the storytelling program. This involves teaching children how to tell stories using real legends from Jefferson County's history.The primary legend that will be discussed July 10 has to do with Andrew and Peggy Moore and their three children, who were among the first settlers of this area in 1810.Andrew and one of his sons went off walking one day to a mill and never returned. A skull was later found that was likely Andrew's, but his son was never heard from again. It is believed that Native Americans may have attacked them.Nichols said she will tell this story to the children and then have them practice telling it themselves. The kids may also re-enact parts of the legend.“Storytelling was such an important part of life,” Nichols said of the 19th Century.The Day in the Life of a Prairie Child program is free, but donations are appreciated.For more information or if you are a teacher interested in the fall session, contact the Historical Village at 246-0033.