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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

MISS WHITE, AKA Monticello teacher Martha Landau, leads her class in singing some old-fashioned pioneer songs.

Rutherford Students
Spend Time as Pioneers

By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO — December 3, 2002 – In pioneer days, Martha Landau wouldn’t have been heading up her class of third graders.
Landau took on an alter ego as Miss White, one of seven children who lives with a brother and his wife, to teach the “Apple Valley School” at the Rutherford School in Monticello.
Her students were actually members of MEP, the Monticello enrichment program, a sort of gifted and talented class.
Third graders visited Landau once a week for an hour, taking on the names and lives of pioneer children for the time period, learning how to make butter and write on slates rather than note paper.
There were spelling bees and math bees, similar to the one-room schoolhouse methods practiced in the 1850s, the era the students were visiting in their minds.
According to Landau, the project was a way of introducing alternate lifestyles to the children’s education.
“It offers them an enrichment in a different kind of lifestyle,” she explained. “They understood more about how pioneers lived.
“On the last snowday when the electric was out in Monticello, they came back and said, ‘This was like how the pioneers lived.’
“This class offered them a different learning experience.”
And Tuesday morning the youngsters “graduated” from Apple Valley School. In front of a room full of parents, the children sang pioneer songs – including “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” and the crawdad song – and told stories of the pioneer time experiences.
Some children read from reports they wrote on brown paper with charcoal, similar to the children in the one-room schoolhouses of the Old West. Others gave reports on books they’ve read over the past three months pertaining to the subject.
There’s a lot the students are going to miss about their special class.
Duncan McCausland gained a better appreciation of math, one of his favorite subjects, through the math bees they acted out with Miss White.
And Gregory Wissman never knew you could make butter in just a few hours – but at least he got to taste some of the freshly made stuff at graduation.
Next month the students will be packing up their belongings and heading off in a covered wagon to discover more of the western territories, making quilts and learning the hardships of breaking new ground.
“I enjoyed every minute of having them,” Landau told the audience Tuesday morning. “Now we’re hitching up and going west.”

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