Memorial School’s second grade classes enjoyed up-close lessons in New Gloucester history at the Blockhouse as well as sites at the Town Hall complex on May 30. Experts from the New Gloucester Historical Society hosted the station-to-station field trip, carrying on a decades-long tradition begun by Betty and Ed True and carried on through the years by Nancy Wilcox and others.
The morning began with a visit to the Blockhouse site on Gloucester Hill Road, where students were greeted by Beverly Cadigan, Liz Moran, and a 50’ x 50’ fence of pink plastic tape. The fencing wasn’t to hold back eager students but instead to show the footprint of the original Blockhouse, home at one point to twelve families, as Cadigan explained. She encouraged students to imagine how different—and difficult—life was in New Gloucester’s earliest colonial days.
From there, the classes headed to the History Barn, library, and meetinghouse. Tom Blake and Jean Libby hosted at the History Barn, where the hearse and sleigh proved particularly intriguing. Next, students explored the library with an A-to-Z scavenger hunt overseen by librarian Sue Hawkins and Carla McAllister.
At the meetinghouse, Kathie Anderson and Jan McLellan shared a “Then and Now” display comparing artifacts from the past and their familiar contemporary counterparts. Beside a package of stick butter from Shaw’s sat a butter churn that students took turns cranking. They lined up to take whacks with a rug beater, admired a wringer washer, and tested the boot jack. In general, a “Please Touch” approach prevailed–except around the chainsaw and two-man crosscut saw.
Besides arranging a terrific outing for the classes, Historical Society volunteers had previously given students a workbook with town history and games to prepare them for their visits. Thus primed, and with the help of teachers Martha Bartlett, Paula Spruill, and Mackenzie Yeaton, students were attentive, enthusiastic, and full of questions. This year’s first graders have something special to look forward to next year.