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Do you remember when you were in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade?  Do you remember when your class went on a field trip to the Waterloo Farm and Dewey School Museums?

In the early educational stages, specifically around the 2nd to 4th grades, students often have the opportunity to engage in enriching field trips that offer a glimpse into historical lifestyles and practices. One notable example of such an educational excursion involves visits to the Waterloo Farm and Dewey School Museums. These visits allow students to actively participate in hands-on activities reminiscent of pioneer life, such as making butter, grinding corn, sawing wood, and hauling water for laundry purposes. Additionally, creative crafts such as making hats, bonnets, or tin buckets for lunch carry the essence of the era. The immersion into historical context is often enhanced by the reading of “Little House on the Prairie” books, such as “House in the Big Woods,” which further connects students to the past, specifically to the era when their ancestors, or the pioneers of Michigan, established farms.

This program, serving over 900 children annually from five surrounding counties, aims to provide a comprehensive Pioneer Experience. It operates through the dedication of a small team of volunteers—four at the school and eight at the farm—over a six-week period in April and May, and for four weeks in September. Despite the success and the richness of the experience offered, the program faces challenges due to the limited number of volunteers, some of whom have been contributing for over two decades and are nearing retirement. There is a pressing need for new volunteers, both men and women, who can commit four to six hours during the week. The program ensures that all volunteers receive thorough training and support throughout their involvement.

The Dewey School aspect of the program is typically managed daily by one or two individuals, referred to as School Marm’s or masters, making it an ideal position for retired educators with a passion for history. Meanwhile, the Waterloo Farm program requires three volunteers per day to shepherd children to various activities and assist with presentations by “Mr. and Mrs. Realy.” These presentations cover farming practices, crop management of the 1860s, and the day-to-day chores and responsibilities of young people during that era, including cooking without modern conveniences, water hauling, and general household maintenance.

The ongoing need for volunteers to sustain and enrich this educational program highlights its significance in providing a hands-on historical experience for children.

Those interested in contributing to this valuable educational initiative are encouraged to seek further information by contacting Arlene at 517-392-3195.

Photos courtesy of Waterloo Area Historical Society

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