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School Programs: Living History Lessons

Cooper Gristmill | Fosterfields Living Historical Farm | Historic Speedwell

Cooper Gristmill

History and the Old Mill
  • Grades: K-6
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Experience how grain and other seeds are hand-ground into flour and meal using a mortar and pestle, and saddlestone. Through simple demonstrations of a waterwheel and a gear model, learn how the power of the Black River does the same job more easily and faster. Tour the Cooper Gristmill and see this energy in action as it produces flour at the rate of several hundred pounds per hour.

Miller's Pancake
  • Grades: Pre K-1
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Experience the process of creating a perfect golden brown pancake. Begin by learning where flour comes from and watch as we make that breakfast food we enjoy so much. Hear and feel the rumble of the millstones. Touch the seeds before they are ground and then after they become flour or meal. This program is adapted from Eric Carle's book, Pancakes, Pancakes!

Family Life in Milltown
  • Grades: 1-6
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

In this interactive program, the concept of community is developed using Milltown, which once included homes, mills, a store, and a school. Discover family life in this 1880s community, while engaging in daily family activities of yesteryear. Teachers choose four of the following activities for the students to participate in: sawing wood, washing clothes, carding wool, spinning yarn, sewing with a treadle sewing machine, purchasing items at an 1880s general store, and learning about an 1880s postal system.

Simple Machines
  • Grades: 3-8
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Combine science, math, and history techniques to learn how the six simple machines make everyday life easier. Students apply hands-on activities to discover how these machines help to operate the mill's equipment. They experience how to lift heavy weights with ease by using pulleys and levers. Watch as one man raises a 2,000-pound millstone with the assistance of simple machines.

Industrial Revolution
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Learn how the advancements in gristmills impacted life in the 1880s through technology, construction, and production (of flour). Experience the use of waterpower to operate Oliver Evans' fully automatic factory as the water wheel runs most of the machinery inside. Hear about the development of millstones, combining simple machines, and the various types of water wheels and water power.

Fosterfields Living Historical Farm

Cara's Farm
  • Grades: K-3
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

See the farm as it appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the eyes of a young Caroline Foster, nicknamed "Cara," and her cousin, Charlie. Experience firsthand some of the chores of the time period. Students role-play and participate in activities such as corn cracking, butter churning, and washing and drying laundry. They learn why certain crops and vegetables were grown at Fosterfields and meet the many farm animals including Jersey cows, draft horses, pigs, and chickens.

Jerseys, Journals, Wagons, and Kernels!
  • Grades: 3-8
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Learn about early 20th century Fosterfields by experiencing a day in the life of the resident farmers and their families. Students will "get in character" and become a farm laborer, the farm manager's wife, or the coachman to discover how each person's work contributed to the farm's operation. They learn about the innovative agricultural farming methods practiced at Fosterfields and try their hands at various farm chores that were typical of the time period.

A Tale of Two Houses
  • Grades: 3-12
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Become acquainted with early 1900s Morristown society. Learn about the people who lived and worked at Fosterfields Farm and in the Foster family home, The Willows. Through role-playing, students compare and contrast the lifestyles of the Fosters and their farm laborers and domestics. Explore social customs, effects of immigration, educational opportunities, and the varying degrees of economic prosperity as experienced by the former Fosterfields residents. Both the farm and The Willows are included in this tour.

Historic Speedwell

Iron, Invention, and Home: Discovering Historic Speedwell
  • Grades: K-12
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Explore Historic Speedwell through a guided tour of exhibits and the original buildings from the Vail Homestead, including the Factory, where Alfred Vail and Samuel F. B. Morse held the first public demonstration of the telegraph in 1838. Also featured is the Vail Mansion, home of Stephen Vail and his family from 1844 to 1864. This program features interactive activities and discussion to bring the site to life.

The Dream of Steam: Steam Power in the 19th Century
  • Grades: 2-12
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Ever wonder why a teapot whistles when the water boils? Visit Historic Speedwell and learn how steam revolutionized power in the 19th century. Also learn how Stephen Vail, owner of the Speedwell Ironworks, was involved in this cutting edge technology. This program discusses the evolution of steam power from a novelty to a useful industrial tool. The program also addresses how steam power makes machines work and Stephen Vail's use of this technology in his business ventures. Students enjoy demonstrations, participate in an exhibit activity, and experience a hands-on building activity.

Making the Connection: Speedwell and the Telegraph
  • Grades: 3-6
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Step into the shoes of Alfred Vail. Experiment with electricity, magnets, and wire to discover how a message can be sent over a great distance. Build a basic telegraph, and send a message using "the code." After the workshop, tour the Factory where the telegraph was first demonstrated to the public in 1838.

Cast from the Past: Labor and Production at the Speedwell Ironworks
  • Grades: 3-12
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Offered: Spring and Fall

Work for the Speedwell Ironworks for a day! In this hands-on workshop, students learn the historic processes of sand casting, including making a mold, and creating a casting (with a safe molten iron substitute) to take home. While the castings are drying, students visit the exhibit, "The Speedwell Ironworks: A History of Workers and Work," where an interactive activity focuses on the history of the Ironworks and highlights objects from the collection.



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