Students in Mrs. Hauck’s and Mrs. Johnston’s classes recently took a trip back in time to explore the seventeenth century Plimoth Plantation colony in Massachusetts. The wonderful exhibits at Plimoth Plantation expanded the walls of our classrooms and inspired in students a curiosity about and understanding of the past.
After the bus ride from Manchester, students were welcomed at the Visitor’s Center and were escorted to the Wampanoag Homesite. Here, students discovered how the 17th-century Wampanoag would have lived along the coast during the growing season; planting their crops, fishing and hunting, gathering wild herbs and berries for food, and reeds for making mats and baskets. Students saw different kinds of homes and interacted with descendants of the Wampanoag and other Native Nations. Students especially enjoyed asking questions of the group of men who were creating a boat using traditional Wampanoag techniques.
It is well situated upon a high hill close unto the seaside… In this plantation is about twenty houses, four or five of which are very fair and pleasant, and the rest (as time will serve) shall be made better. And this town is in such manner that it makes a great street between the houses, and at the upper end of the town there is a strong fort, both by nature and art, with six pieces of reasonable good artillery mounted thereon… This town is paled about with pale of eight foot long, or thereabouts, and in the pale are three great gates…. And lastly, the town is furnished with a company of honest men… Emmanuel Altham, 1623
The students’ second stop was the recreation of the 17th-Century English Village. In the Village, the year is 1627, just seven years after the arrival of Mayflower. The English Village brought colonial Plymouth vividly to life. Students enjoyed walking through the timber-framed houses furnished with reproductions of the types of objects that the Pilgrims owned, kitchen gardens, and heritage breeds livestock.
Wonderful historical actors portrayed townspeople who were eager to tell the children about their new lives in Plymouth Colony. The costumed role players portrayed actual residents of Plymouth Colony. They adopted the names, viewpoints and life histories of the people who lived and worked in the Colony in 1627. Each had a unique story to tell, and because Saint Benedict Academy was one of only a couple of school groups at the site, the students really got to interact with the actors. Students essentially traveled back in time and heard directly from the Pilgrims about the Colony’s difficult beginnings – this is learning beyond the textbook at its finest!
Students left the settlements and went to the Harbor to see the Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of the original vessel that ferried the first Pilgrims in 1620. As students walked upon the solid oak timbers and tarred hemp rigging, they spied beautiful wood and horn lanterns and hand-colored maps which gave them a real sense of what the original ship was like. Exploring to the cramped quarters of the ship’s passengers and peering down into the lower level “hold,” where the food, clothing, furniture, tools and other items necessary to start a colony were stored truly brought the history to life for the students.
The final stop on this whirlwind tour of the seventeenth century was Plymouth Rock. And, with that, students returned to the 21st century with a great appreciation of our past and an enthusiasm for learning about history.