At the Darien Historical Society: Third graders travel back in time to learn
During a recent field trip to the Bates Scofield Homestead Museum, a third grader from Royle Elementary School peered over his classmates’ heads to get a better view of the beehive oven tucked in the back of the open hearth.
“How big is it in there?” he asked.
Sara Lexow Keena, an education volunteer at the society known to countless school children as her colonial alter ego, “Mrs. Bates,” paused in her explanation of 18th century baking practices and grinned at the youngster.
“It’s huge in there. It can probably fit five pizzas!” she said.
The town’s third graders have been visiting the society for an immersive and fun day of local history. The society’s education volunteers, dressed as colonial goodwives in long skirts and crisp white shirts, have led the students through three learning stations at the museum: a tour of the homestead, a lesson on everyday colonial items, and a session on maps.
This is the first year that the town’s third graders have taken a field trip to the society. In the past, first grade students visited, but recent changes to the state’s curriculum framework emphasize that civics and social studies should feel relevant to students, said Cory Gillette, program director for literacy and Social Studies at Darien Public Schools.
“Part of that feeling of relevancy comes when students learn the history of their hometown, and the Darien Historical Society has been an incredible resource for that,” Gillette said.
The new trip was planned and created by the elementary curriculum team and Lexow Keena, and now the field trip complements the new curriculum, “Darien: Then and Now,” being taught in the classroom, Gillette said.
“The volunteers are just outstanding. The work and creativity they’ve put into the program is just amazing,” Gillette said.
In the spring, the town’s fifth graders will be treated to a bus tour of the town’s major historical landmarks.
Sabina Harris, who has been volunteering for several years, said the best part of her work at the Society is watching as students gain a new perspective and a greater appreciation for their hometown.
“You see them get a stronger sense of history; a stronger sense of the town they’ve grown up in,” Harris said. “They see that history is not just the Washington Monument, or the Liberty Bell, or Boston and Paul Revere. They realize that Darien has been part of history, too.”
For Lexow Keena, a Darien native who has been leading the education effort at the Society for 10 years, teaching students about the town’s history connects her to the community in ways that she would never have foreseen when she started volunteering.
“Little kids approach me in the grocery store all the time and call me Mrs. Bates,” Lexow Keena said with a laugh. “They seem to wonder why I’m not dressed in my colonial clothes.”
The Darien Historical Society, located at 45 Old Kings Highway North, operates the Bates-Scofield Homestead, featuring an 18th century saltbox, historical herb garden, resource library and spacious barn exhibition gallery. The Society’s mission is to educate the community about its rich heritage and to preserve historical artifacts for future generations.