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History center shows how school was different during the 19th century
Event was part of Family Day series
Carly Pittman, front, 6, works out a math problem while sister Camryn, 4, watches Sunday at the Northeast Georgia History Center’s Family Day in Gainesville. This month’s family day event took children back to school in the mid-1800s. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Family Day at Northeast Georgia History Center

Where: 322 Academy Street N.E.
When: Every second Sunday of the month.
Admission: Free
More info:

The teacher rings the school bell and students fill into the little classroom. In this classroom there are no books or desks.
Sparse though the room may seem, it contains the most sophisticated piece of teaching equipment to date, the blackboard.

Children got the chance to experience what it was like to go to school in the mid-1800s at Northeast Georgia History Center’s Family Day on Sunday.

For most students the school year has just started. This event gives them an idea of what life would have been like for them 160 years ago.

“We are revisiting an earlier time in our lives and seeing how much education has changed and stayed the same. We’re looking at developing an appreciation for what we have today too,” said Julie Carson, education and volunteer coordinator for Northeast Georgia History Center.

Chief White Path’s cabin on Academy Street served as the school house. Carson said a typical school house would have been one large room that doubled as a church and a meeting hall.

“This is pretty authentic to what it would have been like back then,” Carson said.

Their studies for the day consist of penmanship and arithmetic.

Bryson Little, 6, and his brother Siler, 3, used a quill to practice their penmanship. Bryson, who is home schooled, said he would have liked going to school then.

Siler’s hand was covered in black ink from his writing lesson. He was ready for arithmetic. He said he had fun even though he “can’t really do math yet.”

During their penmanship lesson, children practiced writing the alphabet and their names with a quill and ink. Volunteer Rita Cliffton taught the penmanship class.

“We are practicing a style that would have been popular in the 1800s ... the uppercase is very ornate and it’s what we call nowadays a type of calligraphy,” Cliffton said.

Lesley Cruz is in the 10th grade. She looked over what an eight-grade exam would have been like in the 1800s. She laughed, saying it must have been a miracle to pass the class.

“It’s really amazing how in the past they did things that you would never consider in the future. Like in school, with cursive, in the past it was so necessary. Now it’s one of those things you don’t have to know,” Cruz said.

Children were given a tin pail, similar to what students would have carried to hold their lunch and school supplies.

“One of the interesting things about that era is that they had no running water. So they actually went to the springs or to the well and filled their pails with water and that was their drinking vessel,” Carson said.

David Little of Gainesville brings his children to Family Day at the Northeast Georgia History Center every month. “It’s just a great family time. You know the week is always so busy and it’s just something we kind of commit to once a month,” Little said.