Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gunston Hall

I was lucky enough to chaperone another one of Henry's cool field trips on Friday.  This time it was to Gunston Hall, which was a plantation owned by Virginia founding father George Mason.  I almost didn't go because Olivia woke up with tummy pain, but Henry pulled out the sad clown face and Mitch called in sick to work so I could go.  No one is immune to that face!

The field trip was really interesting.  They had docents dressed in period clothing and the fourth graders got to spend part of the day working as slave children, and the other part as wealthy tobacco children.  They also learned about tobacco and it's role in the south back in the day. 

The kids  got to cook and eat Apples Charlotte over an open flame.
They learned how the laundry was done (and you'd better believe I came home and kissed my high efficiency washer and dryer),
 and they all had to carry heavy buckets of water the way slave children would have had to.
The view from the back lawn.  Not too shabby.  This is where George Washington
would arrive by boat to come visit.

Learning to roll a hoop on the lawn of the main house.

The kids also made little scented sachets from the herb gardens and set off an alarm in the house.  Luckily, it wasn't anyone in my group.  Oh, wait, it was.  Gah! Dumb kids.  There was a little school house on the property for George Mason's nine children, and our modern-day fourth graders got to try their hand at writing on slates.  They thought it was fun because they knew they were going home at the end of the day to their video games, electricity, and other modern conveniences, such as toilets. 

One thing about Virginia that I've found interesting is the way the whole slavery issue is presented.  It's always completely matter of fact, no apologies or cautionary tales.  In Seattle, there would be the tsk tsking, the politically correct lectures, the added paragraph about how wrong it was at the end of the presentation.  It was Virginia-style at Gunston Hall, "This is how the slave children washed the linens for the Mason family.  Slaves lived in shacks along the river near the tobacco fields. Slave girls would do most of the tending of fires in the kitchen, but their brothers would gather the wood". Period.   I was itching to shout from the back of the group, "YEAH, AND ISN'T THAT TERRIBLE?!"  But I didn't, because I want to keep going on these cool field trips.

1 comment:

Julie said...

If you go slightly farther north - there is the air of tsk-tsking on slavery...done more so by focusing on free blacks who were successful (business-wise) and celebrating those who campaigned & fought against slavery. It's a bit subtle, but the implied intention of the moral high road is quite clear.

If you have a free weekend - Gettysburg is a fantastic trip. If you're really lucky - you might even see a ghost...ooohhhhh