The 1990s are looking very good to the seventh-graders at North Harford Middle School in Pylesville. After all, they don't have to worry about being accused of witchcraft, getting whipped if they misbehave in school or giving up french fries because potatoes are thought to be poisonous.
These are just a few of the things the modern-day students have found out about their Colonial counterparts.
"They didn't get a lot of Christmas gifts like we do," Amy Penny said. "They got spinning tops, cards and marbles."
The women also had to wear dust caps to protect themselves from trash that was thrown into the street, she added.
To demonstrate what they had learned, the 52 seventh-graders, who have been studying about Colonial times since October, re-created vignettes of the colonists' lives in a class project, "Christmas in Colonial Annapolis," which was presented last Thursday to parents, education officials and classmates at the school.
The auditorium was transformed into a Colonial town, complete with hangings in the courthouse, rowdies in the pub and cooking at the town home.
The costumed skits were part of a collaborative effort in which three seventh-grade teachers -- English/reading teacher Artis Smith, social studies teacher Judy Baker and English/reading teacher Colleen Carroll -- combined lesson plans to teach students in the enrichment classes about the colonies.
The team teaching, often referred to as integrated instruction because it draws on several subjects, also involved home
economics and industrial arts classes. Home economics students made the dust caps and pouches and the industrial arts students made tin lanterns.
The students were responsible for the scenery, props, script and costumes, the teachers said.
Student Tim Gray, dressed in a billowy white shirt and knickers, said he found out "what ugly clothes they [the Colonists] had to wear."
The seventh-graders -- and teachers -- were outfitted in period clothes that ranged from hand-sewn vests and skirts to powdered wigs to improvisations.
Charles Rosseau almost got it right with his long stockings and short pants, until an observer noticed the Lanzera soccer shoes. "It was the only thing I had," he said with a grin.
Amanda Schaefer, dressed in a print blouse with a cinched waist and floor-length maroon skirt, took comments about her attire in stride as she swept down the school hallway. "Just wait till you're in seventh grade," she teasingly warned one student.
Besides clothing, the students supported their presentations with a variety of items, including apothecary bottles, student hornbooks (plaques with numbers and alphabet) and a cardboard model of a gallows, complete with Barbie the witch, dressed in dark clothing.
The hours of library research and the group's field trip to Annapolis paid off for the other 99 seventh-graders at the school, too. They rotated among the six Colonial scenes with prepared questions that had to be answered and will be graded by their teachers.
"This way everybody gets to participate," teacher Colleen Carroll said.
There was some concern about the project being tied to Christmas, Ms. Smith said. A parent who is a Jehovah's Witness, a religion that does not celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, had raised an objection until the teachers pointed out there were many elements to the presentation.
That parent's child became involved in the shipbuilding skit.
Visitors to the school the day before the holiday break were impressed by the presentation, given the excitement in the air.
Ms. Carroll, the teacher who had been overseeing a boisterous dress rehearsal before the production, put the energy level into perspective.
"There are three things at work here: Christmas, [the prediction of] snow and, oh yes, adolescence."