When the third graders came to social studies class one morning to learn about the Pilgrims, they didn’t expect to meet an actual member of the Mayflower ship that famously transported the first English Separatists to the New World in 1620!
Susanna White, played by an actress from Plimoth Plantation, the living history museum of 17th century colonial and native New England, in Plymouth, Mass., paid a trip to Laura Alterman and Susan Kehoe’s third grade classes to enhance their curriculum and reinforce what the boys had already learned about the first English Puritans. This was Ms. White’s third visit to The Browning School.
“I love when the pilgrim arrives from Plimoth Plantation, because the boys are beyond excited, and their engagement in learning is clearly evident,” Ms. Kehoe said.
Since the beginning of January, the third grade boys have been participating in a Pilgrim simulation where they compete against the Mayflower in various games and activities (arriving before, building houses faster). The boys have also been keeping Pilgrim journals in which they write about their life in 17th century Plimoth Colony.
Ms. White spoke to the boys in Old English about her way of life in 1624, teaching them formal greetings (“good 'morrow!”), bowing techniques and customs. She also brought items that were used at the time, including toys and clothes (the boys were able to try them on), which she noted were much tighter-fitting back then.
“Ms. White’s visit brings learning through the classroom to life. The boys could actually live a day in the Separatist life firsthand through her story,” Ms. Alterman said.
In the afternoon, the historian who plays Ms. White, Malka Benjamin, came out of character and discussed with the classes how she prepares for the role. Her primary source for her character comes from the journal of William Bradford, who was Plymouth Colony’s governor in the early years of the colony. The historian also spoke about the recent discovery of a letter penned by Ms. White’s second husband, Edward Winslow, who explained the first Thanksgiving and told of what was served and how the natives and pilgrims celebrated.
The boys are now preparing for their "Dutch Day" presentations later this spring when they will dress up as and present on other real-life characters from New Amsterdam and Colonial America. They are grateful to have had this period brought to life by Ms. White. Before she left, the historian told the boys that when they research their roles, they should memorize three facts about their characters.