Our Stories

Grade 5 Students Recreate Early American Village

February 21, 2024 by Elizabeth Zitelli (Faculty and Staff)

On a recent Friday, the gym at MILTON’s North Campus was transformed into an early American village, with ten-year-old craftspeople proudly displaying their wares and telling about the lifestyles of people in the pre-industrial time period. 

  • A child in a tri-cornered hat showed off his blacksmithing tools. 
  • A girl in a gown and mob cap explained the work of the mantua makers. 
  • A student in a long apron imitated the process of blowing glass (using a cardboard tube and a rubberized bubble).

The students beamed as they demonstrated their deep learning of this important period of American history.

The interactive display was the culmination of months of study that incorporated both textual and primary source research and visits to archeological and historical sites. What better vantage point to launch their studies of early America, than to be a child in the DC area, so close to the sites of so many of our early historical experiences?  


Fifth graders were able to ask questions as archaeologists and historians, to interrogate foundational questions, such as “How do we know?” and “Where did we come from?” 

After studying the early English settlements, such as Jamestown, Plymouth and Roanoke and the thirteen original colonies, students reflected on the reasons early colonists emigrated to America and the organization of the original settlements. 


They visited the original site of the Jamestown settlement and traveled through time to the living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg. They marveled at exhibits demonstrating trades and crafts from the era and interacted with the living history reenactors, asking insightful questions and planning their own living history museum. 

Back at MILTON, students undertook additional research on their colonial trades, created fictional biographies for themselves, and developed artifacts to represent their trades. 


On the day their final village was assembled, students stepped into character and welcomed parents and students to experience their learning firsthand. 


“One highlight of the day was watching fifth graders skillfully embody their historic personas and get excited about sharing their information with the different grades at MILTON,” teacher Evelyn Schwartz enthused. “It was also lovely to see older students come back to look at projects with nostalgic lenses and the younger grades talk eagerly about what they trade THEY would do when they are in 5th grade.” 

When it’s their turn, perhaps those younger students will be inspired to recreate the multi-colored hair powders of a wigmaker, or sell their wares as a farmer. Many younger students enjoyed making candles alongside our fifth grade candle-maker. 


Fifth grade general studies teacher George Braden reflected “We are so incredibly blessed to live where we do – the reification of abstract textbook knowledge, to see the remains of an impossibly far-away history right in front of your eyes, it’s a precious and glorious thing.”