Friday, August 31, 2018

Stepping into the past at the Village School grand opening by Elizabeth Richards

Visitors to the Windham Historical Society’s Grand Opening of the Village School on Saturday, August 25th, got a glimpse of the past – and a look at the future, with a preview of the program that will be available to area elementary schools in 2019. 

Abigail Wheeler reads from the "McGuffey Reader"
After extensive research, the society transformed a former gun shop into an authentic replica of a one-room school house. Materials were salvaged from old schools in the area, and the schoolhouse is arranged precisely as it would have been in the late 1800s.

Replicas of the “McGuffey Readers” that were used for teaching lessons sit alongside slates for “ciphering” (solving arithmetic problems) on desks much like those that would have been found in a classroom in that time.  Benches are arranged along the walls, where students might have a “spelldown.” There’s even a chair with a dunce cap in the corner, and a dot on the wall, which students would be required to place their noses against and stand for punishment.   

The goal of the society is to bring a living history experience to students in Windham and other schools in the region. “We’re interested in not passive history, but participatory history,” said member Walter Lunt at the grand opening presentation. 

Teachers throughout the Lakes Region will be invited to bring their students to experience a day in the life of a student in 1898. “We don’t want to be a frill in the curriculum,” Lunt, who taught for 30 years, said. “If you’re studying history, we want to become part of your unit. We want to blend. We’ll even adapt what we do to a degree, to meet your goals and objectives.” Teachers will also be given a packet in advance to prepare students for the experience.   

Society members will play the schoolmarm or schoolmaster, and students will spend two-hours learning about current events in 1898 and being taught lessons of that time. Participants will be dressed as those in 1898 would have dressed, and students will be given names of actual scholars in Windham schools during that time period. 

By just after noon on Saturday, the grand opening event had seen 40 to 50 visitors pass through, and members had given three presentations, complete with skits that demonstrated what visiting students will experience. Abigail Wheeler, 8 1/2, from Hollis attended the event with her family. Her mother, Amanda Wheeler, said they home school, and this event tied into what they have been learning about. They attended the event because, “We wanted to have history kind of come alive,” she said.
Abigail, who came in period costume, said the presentation was “cool.”   
According to Lunt, the society will do two practice runs of the program this fall, with third grade classes from Windham Primary School. In the spring, the program will be offered to all schools in the region.  The schoolhouse is the first building to open in the society’s Village Green living history center. For more information, or to donate, contact the Windham Historical Society at 20-892-1433,, or visit their website at

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