By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — For 10-year-old Emma Wisehart of Whittington, taking part in Thursday's Day in the Life of a Prairie Child session was a rewarding experience.
It was Wisehart's third time attending the local program and she said she greatly enjoys learning about life in the 1800s.
“I think it's pretty cool because it's like you're going back in time to see what kids in history did,” Wisehart said.
The Jefferson County Historical Village has hosted the free Prairie Child program since 2009.
Thursday's session was the first of two being held this summer. The next session is scheduled for July 9, but all the slots for it have been filled.
Organizers say the goal of the program is to show kids what daily life was really like in the 19th Century by having them participate in a variety of games and activities.
“They get an essence of what it was like to be in a one-room school, which is very different than schooling today,” said co-organizer/instructor Sharon Francois. “They enjoy it tremendously because it gives them an idea of what it was like and they can also see how different it was.”
Twelve home-school students attended Thursday's program. To start off the day, instructors gave the kids an overview of how a one-room school works and what the “teacher-student” rules are, Francois said.
Then, each child was assigned a name that would have been prevalent in the 1800s such as “Martha,” “Robert,” or “Susanna,” among others.
Before entering the schoolhouse, the children were asked to bow or curtsey to the instructor and recite a Bible verse, which was common for the time period.
Once inside, the kids participated in different activities including singing songs, a spelling bee, ciphering matches, penmanship practice and more. A ciphering match is a kind of contest where students compete at the chalkboard by solving math problems.
The second half of the day was spent outside as children played games and practiced old-fashioned chores like washing clothes by hand.
Emma Morris, 11, of Benton said it was a lot of fun learning about the past.
“I thought it was kind of neat that we got to learn what kids used to do back in the 1800s, how they got to learn, and it's a good experience in how they dressed and what they got to eat, and the games they got to play,” Morris said.
Jamie Wheeler, director of community relations for the Jefferson County Historical Society, said the children at Thursday's session were an enthusiastic group. The fact that the weather was nice that day also helped make the setting ideal for the program, she said.
“The kids seem to already be engaged and enjoying themselves and eager to learn,” Wheeler said Thursday morning. “We can tell they're excited to get down there and try out some of the lessons.”