How Different it was Then!

May 17, 2017 at 11:18 AM

Imagine living in an era without electricity or anything readily available. This means no lights or power points, no TV, computer or iPad, no washing machine, no stove or vacuum cleaner, no fridge or freezer; which means absolutely no ice cream! 

The Girls’ School Year 0-3 students got a glimpse at what life was like back in the mid-1800s when they visited the Howick Historical Village as part of their Social Science Inquiry into ‘New Zealand: Then and Now’. The focus questions the girls are looking at include – ‘How does life in colonial NZ compare to your own life today? How was family life different then and now? What games did they play long ago? How and why are the games and toys different today? What materials were household items and toys made of in the past?’ 

In groups, the girls undertook four different activities, getting a hands-on and interactive experience relevant to the mid-1800s. Already in period dress, the girls received a lesson on fashion from the Victorian times. Using replica clothing, some of the girls were dressed as female and male, in age-dependent clothing to demonstrate the practicalities of the 19th century fashion items. The students learnt that boys under the age of five were dressed like the girls with the only difference being, they wore a cap and their hair was parted on one side. 

The Village is run as a living history museum that provides an opportunity to learn about Auckland’s colonial period. Howick founder, Governor Captain George Grey requested soldiers to help protect Auckland from possible attack, but retired solders from the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corp were sent instead. The fencibles had served in the wars of Britain in the 1830s and 1840s. 

The girls had the privilege of finding out what type of items a typical Fencible family would bring on the boat from England to New Zealand. Each family had only one trunk to fill with as many necessary items from their home. They had never been to New Zealand, so they didn’t know what to expect or what items were needed. They prepared as though the country had nothing. Some of the items in the trunk were a pot, kettle, water bucket, axe, toilet pan, multiple irons, a shoe horn, shaving kit and a steel and flint. It was hard for the girls to grasp the concept on how different the original Victorian appliances were compared to the 21st Century, as well as the effort the colonials would have to go through just to get water, light a fire or make dinner. 

Children in the 1800s were expected to help at home every day! They would fetch firewood, look after the house cows and pigs, plant and weed the vegetable garden, cook and clean the cottage, help with the washing and ironing, many of these jobs were done before school each day. 

After playing with a variety of replica and authentic Victorian era toys, and stepping back in time for a typical 1847 school lesson, the girls were given the opportunity to explore the Village in its full glory. This learning opportunity gave the girls a sense of understanding on how things were done more than 150 years ago and how different it was!

 

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