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Massapequa Observer - Schools

Grace Day Goes Back In Time

Every year at Grace Day School in Massapequa, as part of their curriculum, third grade students dress-up and visit the one-room Nassakeag schoolhouse in Stonybrook, Long Island.  

This year their trip was particularly meaningful as every child in this third grade was effected by Superstorm Sandy. The greatest lesson learned that day was not about the clothes worn in 1877, bringing lunch in a bucket, or the inkwells. It was about the harsh quality of life that the elements imposed on children before electrical lighting, basic plumbing, and circulating heat were available.  

The visit opened as the tour guide played the role of class teacher in the schoolhouse. She collected their lunch-buckets and sat each child at a desk labeled with the name of an actual student from 1877. She narrated the schedule of a typical school day and told of how each student would walk to school carrying wood for the wood-burning stove located in the center of the classroom. She showed them the outhouse on the lawn and demonstrated how a firm tree branch could be used as a “switch” for discipline or to gain control over the classroom.

The children grew very still as the guide spoke about the long, dark, cold school days and infrequent bathing due to lack of hot water. On their faces, was not the traditional classroom look of innocence and absorption, but rather the sober look of “remembering.”

The days following Sandy were all too similar for them: the lack of hot water, electrical power and for some even plumbing. One could feel the reality of living in 1877 penetrate the third graders and understand how Sandy, with her harsh aftermath, had shaped them.

They pushed through the memories and eagerly embraced the opportunity to cut wood using a buck saw, write with a scratch pen using an inkwell, and read aloud while standing from the McGuffey Reader.

The class matured from their stay in the schoolhouse in a very healthy way. In the days that followed they seemed a bit more confident and showed more patience with one another.  

“Hopefully, one day they will look back and  understand the valuable lessons they learned in this one-room schoolhouse,” said Lorraine Kramps, third grade teacher. “They come away with a new appreciation for the luxury of modern-day living.”