The Worthington Historical Society's Pioneer Days program takes third-graders back in time to the early 1800s through a field trip and a series of activities.
Kate LaLonde, director of the Worthington Historical Society, said the program allows the students who attend Worthington Schools, Worthington Christian Schools and St. Michael School to experience life as a pioneer in Worthington through a three-hour field trip.
"Our class spends the school year studying our community: Worthington," said Rachel Janssen, a third-grade teacher for Worthington Christian. "Pioneer Days allows us to experience our community in the past. Throughout the morning, we get to see the history of our town. The staff is kind and knowledgeable. The students love the hoop-and-stick races, the gingerbread cookies and exploring the sights. This field trip is a favorite."
Patrick Callaghan, director of elementary education for Worthington Schools, said the visit gives students a sense of perspective of how communities change over time.
"This visit that the volunteers work so hard to put on really gives them a sense of history," Callaghan said.
LaLonde said the schools are not charged for the program.
She said the program has been conducted for 51 years as a part of the local-history unit taught in third-grade classes. The event runs April 29 through May 20, with different classes attending each weekday.
LaLonde said that means the historical society plays host to 40 to 100 students a day.
She said the day before a class goes on the field trip, someone from the historical society visits its school building with visual aids and explains the differences between pioneer life and modern day.
LaLonde said the field trip has four components for the students.
She said they first visit St. John's Episcopal Church, 700 High St., which was founded in 1804 by a group of settlers led by James Kilbourne, who established Worthington in 1803.
"They learn about how (the church) played into life in Old Worthington," she said.
After that, she said, they take a tour of the Orange Johnson House, a 19th-century residence at 956 High St., to learn more about the daily life of a pioneer.
LaLonde said the students also visit St. John's Episcopal Cemetery, 25 E. Dublin-Granville Road, directly behind the church. She said the first person was buried in the cemetery in 1804.
"Pretty much as soon as they got here, the Scioto Company, 38 proprietors from Massachusetts and Connecticut organized by James Kilbourne to settle a new town, had to establish a graveyard," she said.
She said the students look for names they might recognize and can make a rubbing of the gravestone, which refers to the practice of creating an image using the surface features of stone with paper and crayons.
Suzanne Sippel, a docent and pioneer woman for the historical society, said she leads the children through games pioneer children would have played on the Village Green.
LaLonde said students are invited to wear pioneer costumes for the field trip, which Sippel said can be an amusing sight when the group is playing games.
"We really do look like a bunch of pioneer children," Sippel said.
Sippel said she also teaches the children about the concept of bartering with goods and services because early settlers didn't have money in the modern sense.
"It's very thought-provoking," she said.
Sippel said she tries to provide modern examples of bartering so the children can understand the concept.
"We talk about how when our neighbors go on vacation, we might cut their grass and water their plants," she said.
LaLonde said the program is rewarding and a great way for students to connect with local history.
"Having the opportunity for the kids to see (inside) a pioneer building and experience (history) in a tangible way – you can't learn that from a textbook," she said.