Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Pierre McCauley
Carbondale Community High School
Lake Land College offers children the chance to travel to the year 1870 each summer.
The college’s “Little House on the Prairie” class includes a variety of activities provided for youngsters each day, such as quilt making, churning butter and learning how to yarn dolls.
Riddle Elementary School second-grader Emmalyn Whalin, 7, of Mattoon said she enjoys every moment of the class. Her favorite thing to do is learning how to sew a nine-patch quilt.
Sullivan Elementary School third-grader Elizabeth Owens, 8, said she finds churning butter the most interesting thing about the class.
The class is part of Lake Land Summer College’s youth program. Classes run from 9 to 11 a.m. June 24-27 at the Mattoon Adult Area Education Center. It is open to children ages 6 to12. The goal is to help kids understand 19th century America.
Instructor Cheryl Stolz of Effingham loves teaching the children the lifestyle portrayed in the 1800s, she said. She always had intention of teaching children, including her own, how people lived in that time.
Stolz inspired by the 1935 novel “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In that story, Wilder talks about her personal experiences living on the Kansas prairie.
The “Little House” series was critically acclaimed and later transformed into a television series in 1974. “Little House” is one of Stolz’s favorite book series, and it impacted her perspective on learning about culture, she said. She started teaching the class in 2001.
“It’s important to know about the core of a family,” Stolz said. She believes such a self-sufficient lifestyle is a good example for kids and teaches them the value of America’s history, culture and how families supported each other in the past.
Stolz tries to keep everything in the class historically accurate; for instance, making churned butter with milk that comes from cows instead of using processed milk.
Even though the kids aren’t receiving a two-hour lecture about culture in the 1800s, Stolz hopes that the children will gain insight on the bigger picture, which is gaining invaluable knowledge and applying it to their everyday lives.