The Ocean View Historical Complex was buzzing with excitement last Friday, as all five fifth-grade classes from Lord Baltimore Elementary School were able to tour the facilities.
“It’s important, I think, for the kids to see physically what life was like in the past, what people had to deal with,” said Richard Nippes, president of the historical society.
Students were able to tour the Tunnell-West house, furnished with period furniture and artifacts; an 1800s outhouse; the town’s first post office, built in 1889; and an exact replica of Cecile Steele’s first chicken house.
While in the Tunnell-West house, students were given a tour and then sent on a scavenger hunt to find objects that they wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with today, such as a chamber pot.
They would also go outside to use a period water pump — to understand that indoor plumbing was not available when the house was built in the late 1800s.
“Why didn’t they just go inside and turn on the spigot?” Nippes asked the students. “Because they didn’t have them back then.”
“Imagine doing this every day,” said fifth-grade teacher Shelley McBride to students as they pumped water.
McBride said the visit to the historic complex was a wonderful educational opportunity for the children.
“I just think it’s important for the kids to understand the history of Ocean View.”
Nippes also gave students a tour of the post office, asking, “Back in those days, everyone came to the post office to get their mail. How did the mail get to here?”
“Letter in a bottle?” suggested one student eagerly.
“The mail actually came into Frankford. What’s there that’s not in Ocean View? They have a railroad. The mail would come in through the railroad.”
Nippes also told students that the post office, which also served as Annie Betts’ hat shop, was a social center where residents in the town would gather.
Students were able to decorate a class hat that was taken back to school, where they would vote for their favorite creation.
As for what the students learned, 11-year-old Chris Sichina said he was impressed with what people were able to create with little resources.
“What I did learn is the games they played were pretty fun — how they would use little objects to make games.”
“How they used the outhouse — that was pretty weird,” added 11-year-old Josh Townsend of what he learned.
Fifth-grade teacher Dana Lambert, who helped organize the field trip, said the school was contacted by the society to see if such a trip would be possible for students.
“I hadn’t” know it was there, said Lambert. “This is my first time coming — I think it’s really neat.”
Lambert said many students respond to hands-on learning, which made the trip to the historical complex so beneficial.
“The staff here was full of information and very kid-friendly. I think it would be a great trip for other schools in the district to experience.”
She added that it is important for students to realize that history is all around them — even in their own back yard.
“I hope that they just understand that history is everywhere. We don’t have to go to the big cities in Delaware to learn about history. Our school has history, the town our school is in has history. Those who don’t live in Ocean View — Selbyville, Frankford, wherever they come from, there’s history.
“That’s what I hope they understand. A small place like this has a lot, a lot of history.”
Lambert noted that Delaware history is taught to fourth-grade students and that the local resource will be shared with those teachers in her school.
Nippes, who hopes to expand the society’s educational outreach, said he was pleased to see such a lively group of students enjoying local history.
“To me, this is the essence of what we’re trying to do — for kids to realize that what they take for granted didn’t exist. That somebody had to lay the groundwork step by step.”
For more information on the Ocean View Historical Society, visit www.ovhistoricalsociety.org. The Tunnell-West House is located at 39 Central Avenue in Ocean View.