A Field Trip Back In Time: What I Learned
Do you know where the term, 'potty' came from? Read on...
Yesterday I chaperoned my daughter’s field trip to Colvin Run Mill, ‘the sole surviving operational 19th-century water-powered mill in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area… and a nationally significant example of automated technologies pioneered in milling and later adopted across American industry. ’
One of the most interesting (and enlightening) activities of the trip was a guessing game where the Colvin Run historians showed our group of 3rd graders common items used by the pioneers, and asked them, ‘what do you think these were used for?’ Here’s a handful of the items we looked at along with the kids’ guesses.
Carpet swatter? Snow shoe!
Boot jack? Airplane!
Old-timey curling iron? Scissors!
Washboard? Game board!
Clothes washer? Plunger!
You get the idea.
Granted, many adults might not guess correctly either. (Even I got stumped on a few.) However, the activity reminded me of the ingenuity, practicality and hands-on work of ‘simpler times.’ When workers, parents and kids got their hands dirty and accomplished tasks and chores with a bit of elbow grease. When there were no electronics to help folks navigate their daily lives (and the world).
Back then folks didn’t accomplish tasks with digital technology, and this way of doing things led to learning new skills and having real-world interactions with people. It also helped them to learn how things work, see the fruits of their labor and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
This is one of the reasons that we advocate for unplugging from our phones and other digital devices every day to embrace (hug) the real world.
This practice is especially important for kids because studies show that too much screen time can result in impediments to proper brain and social development.
For example, at this year’s annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, doctors and scientists discussed new research on the connection between kids’ technology time and delayed speech development. Particularly delays in ‘expressive speech’ — how children put their words together to form thoughts and communicate them.
The research showed that ‘each additional 30 minutes of hand-held screen time was linked to a 49 percent increased risk in expressive speech delay.’
And previous studies have revealed other impacts of digital on kids, like:
Delayed development of executive function: Decreased focus, problem-solving skills, self-management and independence
Disrupted sleep: Restlessness, distraction and hindered ability to unwind
Impediments to social skills development: Stifled language, communication and conversation skills.
Behavioral difficulties: Uncharacteristic disruptiveness at school and desensitization to violence.
We do know that there are benefits to giving our kids access to electronics: Grasping new technologies, connecting with friends and family and learning new concepts and skills through educational games.
And of course proper social behavior is something kids from every era must learn - that’s part of growing up!
But the field trip got me thinking.
The class unanimously couldn’t fathom the day-to-day life of their 1800’s contemporaries. Perhaps because of the slower pace and lack of immediacy. You couldn’t just text your grandma or instantly ‘like’ your friend’s Instagram pic.
Don’t get me wrong, innovative technology is a wonderfully useful thing. But, I think kids (and parents) today could learn a bit from the pioneer way of life. Working with their hands (not just to type), learning how things work, solving problems, creating something tangible - even just the simple task of doing housework - would help them to really appreciate modern conveniences...
...Like the potty. (Formerly known as the chamber pot.)
Check out our ideas for ways to unplug with your kids!