Students learn by stepping back into the 1800s

Bown House1
A docent teaches students how children learned in the 1800s.


Fourth-graders from Boise’s Trail Wind Elementary School are much more appreciative of everyday amenities — such as electric lights, a gas cooktop and indoor plumbing — after a field trip to the Bown House.

The group of 50 students traveled back in time to 1889, to the days when Idaho was a a gold-rush destination.

“I love history and it’s really fun to see how they lived,” said Gabby Johnson, a Trail Wind fourth-grader.

Each year, more than 2,000 Boise fourth-graders walk through the Bown house — a six-room home built along the Oregon Trail in 1879 by Joseph and Temperance Bown. The two-story sandstone pioneer home sits on the property of Boise’s Riverside Elementary School and is part of the Boise School District’s Idaho history fourth-grade curriculum.

“I learned the kids had to do a lot of work back then,” said fourth-grader Joseph Bean. “I can’t believe they had to churn butter for meals.”

Bown House3
Bown House

The docents dress in period clothing and are women from the Assistance League of Boise. The women conduct hands-on activities teaching students about life and survival.

“Most of the ladies are retired teachers,” said Nancy Perry Dale, an ALB docent. “It’s a wonderful feeling when the kids are so excited to tell everyone what they experienced.”

Students labor at late 1800s kitchen tasks: churning butter, pumping water and coring apples. When the kids aren’t working away in the kitchen they are studying in an old schoolroom.

“We teach the children how hard life was during that time,” said Juno Van Ocker, an ALB docent. “The students are reading, writing and using math skills while they are at the house.”

Free public tours are held the first Saturday of each month from 1 to 4 p.m.


Andrew Reed

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