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NewsTribune photo/Alicia LeGrand Carter Dodge, a fourth-grade student from Tonica Grade School, learns what it was like to take a math class in a one-room school house. The students were given a mini blackboard with chalk to do their math problems. The day trip was part of the school program done each year at the La Salle County Historical Society, Utica.
Dave Downing (left), a fourth-grade teacher from Tonica Grade School, accepts gifts from Thomas Hoyt, the resident blacksmith for the museum. Downing received a wall hook with a leaf design and a two prong grill fork which was made by Hoyt. He was given the gifts because of this retirement after a long history of bringing his students to the museum as part of the program.
Summer children’s history program planned
The museum also plans to host a summer program 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 29 at Lock 16 in La Salle. The program is open to students from third to eighth grade. The day will include games, songs, speakers and other activities about the I&M Canal. The cost of the activity is $15 per child and adult. For more information, visit www.lasallecountymuseum.org or call (815) 667-4861.
Tonica fourth-grade students on Tuesday experienced what life would have been like more than 100 years ago.
With advancing technologies and increasing class sizes, students today may not begin to understand what life would have been like for school children in the early 1900s. However, the La Salle County Historical Society has been helping local school kids experience this life for 24 years.
“It’s a nice experience for the kids,” said Tonica fourth-grade teacher Dave Downing.
Downing has been teaching for 31 years and has been bringing his students from Tonica Grade School to the museum program for almost 20 years. He said the students enjoy the small one-classroom activities and the blacksmith shop. He said he also likes the program because it teaches the students about La Salle County and Illinois history.
The day-long experience includes tours of the museum, the 1875 post-and-beam barn, the 1892 blacksmith shop, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Local artisans also demonstrate old-time crafts such as quilting, weaving, blacksmithing, barrel making and rug braiding.
Thomas Hoyt, the resident blacksmith for the museum, talked to the students about being a blacksmith and also gave the students handmade nails. Hoyt’s wife Rose said the two of them volunteer their time to the museum and make various items for sale. The proceeds return to the blacksmith shop to keep it running. Hoyt also spends time thinking of new things he can do with the students who come to the historical society for the living-history programs each spring, Rose said. “I love watching him with the kids,” Rose said about her husband.
Hoyt also presented Downing with two gifts of a wall hook with a leaf design and a two-prong grill fork Hoyt made. Downing is retiring at the end of the school year and the museum staff wanted to do something special for his years of bringing students to the program, Rose said.
“Thanks to him we have little pioneers,” Rose said. Downing encourages his students to dress as pioneers for the day. Many of the costumes are made by himself or the students, and some have been collected and passed down from year to year.
Downing said he loved being a part of the program and hoped the school would continue to do it after he leaves.
Every spring, about 1,200 fourth-grade students, parents and teachers participate in one-day visits to the museum complex. The goal is to encourage students to visit historical sites around the county. This year, 24 classes are participating in the program, including Rutland, Serena, Holy Family, Oglesby, Marseilles, Seneca, St. Michael in Streator, Tonica, St. Louis, Princeton, Kimes, Oakland, Streator, Waltham, Jefferson, Ottawa, Sheridan, Wallace and Peoria Manual Secondary School.
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