Making long ago feel real to kids

The Baltimore Sun

Josh Kalivretenos was dumbfounded to learn that people used to live without cars, telephones, TV or YouTube.

"It wouldn't be a very good time with me," the second-grader at Cradlerock School said. "YouTube is my favorite Web site on the computer."

But that's how it was for Annie Bell Freeman Pickett, a 100-year-old Columbia resident who visited the school of first- through fifth-graders and told about her life growing up. The visit on Wednesday was designed to coincide with the school reaching the 100th-day mark of the 180-day academic year, an event Cradlerock has observed for several years.

"I thought it was really cool to meet someone who is 100," Josh said. "I didn't know a single person who is 100 years old."

Freeman Pickett spent the better part of the day fielding questions from students to help drive home the importance of the number 100, said Principal Jason McCoy.

"It certainly emphasizes the importance of 100," McCoy said. "It also makes them appreciate life. It shows them how different things were back then."

Freeman Pickett told of how she was the eldest of 15 children in Winnsboro, S.C. Her early education took place in a one-room schoolhouse and ran through eighth grade, the highest level available at the time. She also shared anecdotes about her childhood and growing up in a time without electricity and running water.

"I want them to learn to obey their parents and go to church, and treat people like they want to be treated," Freeman Pickett said between visits to classes.

Each group generated in advance a set of questions for Freeman Pickett to answer, and students were also allowed to ask any other questions that came up. The event was organized by Jacquetta Woodley, a special education teacher who attends the same church as Freeman Pickett.

Savon Warren, 7, said his grandparents are in their 70s, but he never imagined that he would meet someone who has lived a century.

"I've never seen someone with wrinkles," he said.

Satori Valentine, 6, said she "really liked" the presentation.

"It told me a lot about what happened 100 years ago," she said.

Satori said she couldn't wait to go home and tell her parents that she met someone who is 100.

The students' fascination with their visitor was perhaps surpassed only by that of their teachers, who quietly filed into the back of the classroom with each presentation Freeman Pickett made.

Adrienne Williams McKinney, a reading specialist, slipped into Angel Marshall's first-grade classroom to listen to Freeman Pickett field questions from a room of excited youngsters.

"I was interested to hear her responses," she said. "I felt like I was one of the kids."

Williams McKinney was captivated by the visitor's story, particularly about growing up without modern technology.

"Boys and girls oftentimes hear about these things," Williams McKinney said. "This will make it tangible for them."

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