Wearing colonial period-type clothing, Riverside Elementary fourth-graders Rachel Wang, front, and Taylor Lindberg toss bean bags they made as part of a hands-on program on Monday in teacher Melisa Jeffers’ class. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
SUWANEE — Wearing white dresses and caps while making candles, churning butter and sewing bean bags, fourth-graders at Riverside Elementary immersed themselves in the colonial time period on Monday.
It was the third year that Melisa Jeffers’ class took some time to review and discuss one section of their social studies curriculum in a hands-on manner.
“It was hard, so tiring,” fourth-grader Taylor Lindberg said. “When I could have been playing, I was shaking butter. I’m glad I didn’t live back then, I couldn’t go to the store and buy butter.”
Throughout the year, the fourth-graders learn about Native Americans through the Reform movement, but the lesson appeared to resonate with the students. Several acknowledged that the colonial times were “really hard” because there wasn’t access to electronics and television.
Jeffers said she enjoys having the experience at this time of year because it’s a sort of winter celebration. Jeffers said the colonists were very frugal. Some students said they would throw away the butter after using it, but Jeffers asked them if that was the best decision.
“Would you really work that hard and throw it away,” she said. “There’s not a Walmart on every corner, and they had to make and produce almost everything they had.”
Some of the items the students learned about were rice, coins and cotton, and that slaves were often required to clean 100 pounds of cotton each day. Several parents brought in food that was common for that time period, and helped the students sew bean bags and make other games.
During one exchange in the review session with Jeffers, one student asked about buying heavy whipping cream at the store, and Jeffers replied, “You would have to milk the cow.”
Because personal hygiene was one aspect of life that left something to be desired, Jeffers also handed out cloves and cinnamon, which helped folks smell better 200 years ago.
A bonus is that the students will have their work hung on the walls as constant reminders for the spring standardized tests.
“We will talk about it for the rest of the year,” Jeffers said. “They will say, ‘Remember when we did … because it’s so hands-on and visual, and it’s a memory. That’s what I want as much as anything. A good memory of something they did in fourth grade instead of paper and pencil. This is just a good visual recreation. And they get to act like wild Indians for two hours.”