Stoddert Elementary School students learn history at Tudor Place museum
There's no such thing as a time machine, but for the 20 fifth-graders from Stoddert Elementary School in the District, a trip back in time happens monthly.
The class is doing a year-long project with Tudor Place, a historic home in the middle of Georgetown in the District that was built in 1816 by the granddaughter of Martha Washington. For more than 150 years, until 1983, it was used as a private home by six generations of the same family and later became a museum.
The house has been restored to what it would have looked like in the late 1800s and contains a large collection of the family's possessions, including furniture, art, clothes in the closet and even personal letters. It gives an intimate look at what life was like back then for one rich and powerful Washington family.
Throughout this school year, the students from Stoddert are visiting Tudor Place to learn about its history and then to create museum exhibits that will go on display in late spring. "We're really trying to find ways to bring history to life for kids," said Talia Mosconi, the museum's education director.
The students' first visit focused on the gardens, then last month they went on their first tour of the house, learning about the family that built it and how they lived. Each student was handed a picture of an object they had to find in the house and try to identify. None of them looked like anything you'd see in a house today.
"Is this a chair?" one student asked after getting his handout. "Is this a back-scratcher?" another asked.
"I don't know. You'll have to figure that out," Mosconi answered.
The kids especially liked the stories about the children who grew up in the house -- such as learning that in pre-telephone days, the children invited their cousins over by waving a flag out of a second-story window. The cousins, from another wealthy and powerful family, lived all the way across the Potomac River in another grand mansion and would watch for the signal to know when a visit was okay.
After the tour, the kids broke into groups to do an art project about the house and talk with one another about what they had seen.
"I liked all the historical artifacts, like the swords and stuff," said Lucas Ferrier, 10, working on the project with a group of boys. "And all the pictures," said Eliot Bilski, 9.
"And the historical family and all their relationships and power," said Arthur Donnellier, 10.
Added Muhammad Iqbal, 11: "I just like the house itself."