Sandy Pond School Association A 501(c)3 organization

A Vision for Sandy Pond School 

A Student Visitation Program

One of our goals for Sandy Pond School is establishing a visitation program for elementary school students. One of the more successful examples of such a program is the one offered by the Adamsdale School in North Attleborough (pictured at left). Noreen J Kiff, curator for the North Attleborough Historical Society explains how their program works. 

Hello, friends and supporters of the Sandy Pond School Association,

I was quite excited to receive the first issue of The Sandy Pond Crier, your newsletter, and I enjoyed reading about all the good things going on in Ayer. Congratulations on all you have accomplished toward the restoration and preservation of a very important piece of history!

I understand that one of the topics you have discussed is the possibility of opening Sandy Pond School for class visitations. What a worthwhile goal! I am writing this article, in my capacity as curator for the North Attleborough Historical Society, to encourage you to do just that. The North Attleborough Historical Society owns and maintains the 1669 John Woodcock Garrison and the one-room Adamsdale Schoolhouse in North Attleboro, MA. The schoolhouse, constructed in 1850 and officially known as Schoolhouse #7, was purchased from the town by the society for $1.00 in the early 1970’s to save it from the wrecking ball. They society then had it moved onto the garrison property. Though some necessary changes were made at the time the building was relocated, today the building is fully functional as a one-room schoolhouse.

Each spring the classroom is filled again with the sounds, the energy, the promise, and sometimes the trepidation of children at work and at play. The North Attleboro School Committee sponsors a visitation program that allows each third-grade class to spend one day at ‘The Little Red Schoolhouse’. The neighbors know when class will be in session for the day because the sound of the bell ringing, announcing to the students that they better hustle into the building to avoid being tardy, carries quite a distance. Students and teachers arrive dressed in 1850’s costuming, carrying their lunches in pails, and ready to share lessons in the Three R’s along with lessons in deportment, elocution, and penmanship. The lessons are taught by the classroom teacher, who uses the methodology and best practices of the 1850’s, with all the sternness that implies. The stool and dunce cap in the back corner are a constant reminder to the students that their best behavior is demanded.

The North Attleboro School Committee authorizes funding for bus transportation for each public school third grade class to and from the ‘The Little Red Schoolhouse’. Additionally, they donate a $1,000.00 stipend to the historical society each year. The stipend helps defray the society’s costs for heat, electricity, snow plowing, paper products, etc. The school committee also provides a tin pail ‘lunch box’ to each student.  The number of classes the society hosts varies, dependent on the population and school enrollment each year. Typically, the society welcomes between fifteen (15) and eighteen (18) classes.

One elementary school principal is tasked by the school committee with assigning a visitation date for each class, arranging for bus transportation on each date, and communicating with the teachers and the curator of the historical society. The principal wisely incorporates two or three ‘make-up’ days in the calendar in case school is cancelled or delayed on a day a visitation is scheduled.

The historical society provides slates, chalk, rags, and Primers for the students to use. The Primers are a compilation of choral reading exercises, Math problems, patriotic songs, lists of historical facts, etc.  that are appropriate for the students of North Attleboro. They society also provides a Bible that the teacher is welcome to use for historical accuracy.

The curator of the historical society solicits, trains, and schedules members and friends of the society to volunteer as docents in the John Woodcock Garrison. During the course of the day students leave the schoolhouse, walk next door to the garrison, and experience a guided tour of that property. Many of the docents are retired school teachers. Retired third-grade school teachers.

Parents are asked to provide a lunch and appropriate costuming for their child. The lunch should consist only of foods that were available in the 1850’s. Furthermore, the lunch is to be packed without benefit of plastic baggies or any other product that was not available in the 1850’s. Many parents choose to make an outfit based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. Others have a costume professionally made. This is the eighteenth year our program has run so each school has accumulated a number of costumes that were donated by previous students. These are shared freely with students who will participate each year.

Our local parochial school is included in the program but is not funded by the town’s school committee. The students at the parochial school provide their own transportation or walk to and from the schoolhouse. Because they are not included in the stipend we receive from the town, it is suggested each parochial student donate $2.00 toward the society’s expenses.

The Massachusetts Department of Education Curriculum Frameworks are the basis for our program. According to the most recent revisions, third grade Social Studies must include a study of local history, including the town/city in which the student lives. Our program not only teaches history, it allows students to experience history.  Each teacher tailors his/her lessons for the day to meet the specific needs of his/her students, always with the frameworks in mind.  This program could also support the frameworks for Grade 5, American History. North Attleboro incorporated the program into the third-grade curriculum simply because it was a third -grade teacher who originally suggested and promoted the idea.

Imagine spending a day in the 1800’s! Imagine being a nine-year-old and spending a day in the 1800’s! Imagine, years later, remembering little of the education the Town of North Attleboro provided you, but remembering every single minute of your day at ‘The Little Red Schoolhouse’! That is what I hear over and over again from the students who visit us, grow up, return, and become the younger members and supporters of our society.

 With best regards for all your future endeavors,

Noreen J. Kiff, Curator
North Attleborough Historical Society
North Attleboro, MA