HARRISBURG— Girls dressed in gingham fabric filed into the classroom and sat in the benches on the right, while boys sat in benches on the left as teacher Lois Herbel began the lesson.

Tricia Gorsuch’s fourth-graders sat in a one-room, white school house during their field trip to Flowerfield School Thursday, Oct. 3 for a lesson how students learned in 1888. Students used slates, cloths and chalk for their arithmetic and orthography lessons and ink and quills to practice their penmanship. They also learned about history and located the continents where their ancestors came from before coming to America.

“It’s a big adjustment for them,” Herbel said. “Probably the hardest thing for them is to realize 'Silence is golden.' To realize they have to raise their hand, they have to be called on, and they have to stand. That is just really foreign to them to stand to give their answer or ask a question.”

During the geography lesson, students were called up to the front of the room and had to locate Europe, Canada and Mexico as part of understanding their ancestry and how America was settled along the east coast, before expansions happened to the west. They discussed how the Oregon Trail provided a way of travel for the pioneers, but the journey on wagon was dangerous. Travelers struggled with illnesses like cholera, finding food and getting the wagons across the tough terrain. Once the TransContinental RailRoad was established, it provided pioneers safer and faster transportation west, diminishing people’s use of the Oregon Trail.

As part of the Midwest being settled, Herbel introduced the class to Daniel Freeman, a Civil War Army soldier, who built the first Nebraska homestead near the village of Beatrice, Nebraska, in 1862.

“President Abraham Lincoln was concerned about settling the Midwest, so they created the Homestead Act,” Herbel said. “Nebraska was the first state to have a homestead and it was because of a guy by the name of Daniel Freeman.”

After learning about history, students completed a penmanship lesson.

“The hardest part is writing with the quills,” Hayden Mathiason said. “Sometimes, it wasn’t writing.”

As the students dipped the quills into the black ink, they used small notebooks to practice their cursive letters before writing a sentence.

“I learned how to write in cursive,” Mathiason said. “It was fun.”

Henry Devlin said the cursive activity was his favorite one of the day.

“It was not hard to write,” Devlin said. “I was cold in the classroom and I couldn’t get out of the desks unless I moved them.”

Travis Iron Shell also enjoyed the field trip, but was surprised by some of the rules.

“We were acting like 1888 kids,” Iron Shell said.

Throughout the day, they learned about the different rules and how chores on the farm or ranch took priority over education.

“It was surprising when we couldn’t play with the girls,” Iron Shell said.

Orthography was another subject students learned about as they practiced spelling words, written on the board on their slates with chalk.

Once they finished their lessons, they took a lunch before exploring the museum. With the field trip to Flowerfield coming to a close, Ashlynn Parker said Flowerfield was not what she expected.

“I expected that we’d be dirty,” she said. “It’s different than school now, especially the one house schools.”

Parker said the school day was different because there was no whiteboard and the math problems were easier.

Gorsuch enjoyed her first trip to Flowerfield and hopes her students connect their history content to the field trip.

“I hope they realize how much we have now and how easy things have become,” she said. “I also hope they understand how this relates to the history we’ve talked about in class.”

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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