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Old Sturbridge Village Offers "Journey Through Food" Program to Connect Middle School Students to the Source and Value of Food

by Kathryn Buckner
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Old Sturbridge Village is an outdoor living history museum located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. For 75 years, the Village has depicted life in a rural New England town during the period of 1790 to 1840. The Village features historic buildings, collections of Americana, costumed historians, and programs in agriculture, horticulture, households and trade shops (pottery, woodworking, printing, and more) that enable visitors to explore early American life through authentic, hands-on experiences. Programs are designed to connect visitors to America’s past so that history continues to inform and enrich society.

In 2017, the Village founded Old Sturbridge Academy, a free K-8 charter school located adjacent to the museum campus. The Academy’s 280 diverse students participate in traditional classroom activities but also have access to the museum’s farm, gardens, trade shops, historic buildings, nature trails, exhibits, and staff for hands-on learning. The museum and the Academy work together to design active experiential learning programs that meet curriculum goals while challenging students to think creatively, work cooperatively, and participate in real-world learning.

In February 2021, Americana awarded a grant to Old Sturbridge Village for a year-long heritage farming program for the Academy’s middle school students (“Journey Through Food”). The goal of the program is for students to gain a historic perspective and greater understanding of the source and value of their food, to see how historic agricultural practices may be relevant today, and to understand the value of responsible farming and its benefits to human health and the environment. Many of the hands-on learning activities in the program will occur at Freeman Farm, a working farm on the museum campus that features a historic farmhouse and barn, livestock, kitchen garden, and fields. Students will plant and harvest crops, tend animals, milk cows, and prepare meat, butter, cheese, and produce through such techniques as drying, smoking, and pickling. The Americana grant will support program development and implementation during one “pilot” year, with lessons learned and feedback from students and teachers used to improve the program so it can be offered beyond the initial year.

Americana has supported programs at Old Sturbridge Village since 2014. Americana recently supported the development of a new working cabinetmaking and woodworking shop at the museum. The shop combines object displays, demonstrations, and training opportunities to entertain and educate visitors, train skilled craftspeople, and restore furniture and other wooden items using 18th and 19th century cabinetmaking skills. The cabinetmaking shop is just one of the Village’s many displays and demonstrations that educate visitors and increase appreciation for life in a small, early American New England town.

Americana is proud to support the Village’s Journey Through Food program for middle-school students. More information about Old Sturbridge Village, including 3D Tours of several buildings, is available at the Old Sturbridge Village website.