In 1880, Edith Claggett was 8 years old. From a family of nine children, she was the only one "lucky enough" to go to school that year.
After chores every morning, Edith walked to the one-room schoolhouse on Second Street in Waterford, probably carrying her lunch in a clean handkerchief, listening to birds twitter above the town's main street.
Edith Claggett was black, as were all the children attending the little white schoolhouse, built in 1867, a gift of the Quaker community.
Last week, as a participant in the Waterford Foundation's living history program, 10-year-old Genny Pieruccioni took on the persona of Edith Claggett and attended a one-day class in the 118-year-old schoolhouse, preserved almost as it was in 1880.
Genny, along with 29 of her classmates from Meadowland Elementary School in Sterling, learned how to write her name with a straight pen, by dipping the nib into a little pot and cleaning it with a pen wiper; to cipher on a slate, and to stitch a hem into a piece of gingham.
Bronwyn Souders, a Waterford Foundation docent specially trained to teach a curriculum similar to one a student in 1880 would have faced, became for the day Aura Nickens, one of the teachers who helped educate Waterford's rural black community.
On her desk were yellowed textbooks, a pot of geraniums, a globe and a shiny red apple.
"I would have liked Edith if I knew her," said Genny, "but I wouldn't like to live in such a big family. You wouldn't get very much attention." Genny is the youngest of two children.
Even though the 1880 census, from which the foundation gleaned most of its information about the children, indicated that the black families were very likely poor -- and with fathers who worked on other peoples' farms and children who dropped out of school early to help -- Genny believes that Edith Claggett was rich in other ways.
"You can be rich inside," she said.
A $1,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities helped the Waterford Foundation pay for the living history program, which will be repeated several times over the next two weeks.
Thirty new McGuffy readers; ink-stained wooden desks from the period, with their ornate black wrought iron feet; a dusty coal scuttle and a water bucket, complete with dipper, help evoke a schoolroom of the past.
But there were important concessions to the 20th century, according to foundation executive director Constance Chamberlain.
"The health department wouldn't have allowed the children to use a common dipper, so we provided paper cups," she says. "And an outhouse was out of the question." Instead, a portable convenience is set up in the schoolyard. During recess, while the docent led her "scholars" in 19th-century games, lines of polite children formed, waiting quietly to use it. Even at play, the students, true to their roles, were orderly.
"The thing that was most different about going to school back then was that the teachers were more strict," said Michael Grafton, a 9-year-old who for three hours last week was 18-year-old Jonathan Kennedy. "Our teacher yells at us but he doesn't make us stand up at our desks when he calls on us or make us call him 'sir.' I liked it the discipline a lot."
The docents, most of them Waterford residents, were trained for their roles with a manual prepared by the foundation after several years of research, Chamberlain said. Participating classes, chosen because they are studying Loudoun County or Virginia history, prepared for the experience by learning the history of the 1880s in rural Virginia and writing biographies of the children they portrayed.
"I know that Edith didn't wake up with an alarm clock," Genny said when a rooster's crow interrupts laughter in the school yard. "I know that's the sound that woke her up."
William Bragg teaches Genny's fourth grade class at Meadowland and hopes, he said, that the experience will help his students appreciate their present-day homes, work and schools. "It was interesting to teach them to be another person and find out what life was like before planes and cars and television," Bragg said.
Students were encouraged to bring lunches wrapped in large handkerchiefs, while such 20th-century goodies as Twinkies and soft drinks were discouraged. Also frowned upon -- nail polish, earrings, Kleenex and aluminum foil.
Two of the students were asked to fetch water and coal, although, Chamberlain noted, it would have been too dangerous to use the coal stove that still stands in the middle of the room. "They oiled the floors for years to preserve them," she says. "It would have been a fire hazard." When necessary, the room is warmed with electric baseboard heat.
According to county records, the schoolhouse, built on land purchased by "the colored people of Waterford and vicinity," was attended by Waterford's black children until 1957, when the Supreme Court ordered the state of Virginia to desegregate its schools.
"Among other things," Chamberlain said, "we thought it was important that the children learn that this school existed because of segregation."
While pupils at the front of the room were memorizing a poem, one was sent to the dunce's bench for wiggling too much.
"We know better than to misbehave on the recitation bench, scholars," the docent said. The student plopped the brown paper dunce's cap on his head and looked properly chagrined when class resumed.
"I think they like the discipline," said Marie Anderson, a Montessori teacher trained as a docent for the program. "When they slip out of their character, I go more into mine. There is always an instinctive polite response."
The program will be offered to Loudoun County schoolchildren next year, Chamberlain said. School Superintendent Robert Butt has been "very supportive," but Cathie Ratcliffe, the foundation's education director, hopes there will be a few changes.
"We need 19th-century maps," she said. "And a flag with 39 or 40 stars." The foundation also plans to learn in which of the Waterford homes each of the 1880 pupils actually lived.
"I'd like to take the children on a walking tour of the village after class is out and show them those homes," said Ratcliffe. "Our purpose is to make this experience a participating museum they'll never forget."