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Sackets students celebrate Christmas the 19th century way

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SACKETS HARBOR — Second-graders are getting into the Christmas spirit through centuries-old activities.

Sackets Harbor Central School pupils spent Tuesday morning at the battlefield museum and Commandant Josiah Tattnall’s house to learn traditional holiday songs, make crafts and play traditional games.

“We tie our program at the site here into the New York state curriculum,” said Constance B. Barone, manager of the Sackets Harbor State Battlefield Historic Site. “History can be fun, and it can be active. It can be a positive learning experience.”

She said the Commandant’s Christmas program has been hosted by the museum for about seven years.

Before winter break begins, the museum will host second-graders from Lyme, Belleville Henderson, General Brown and Hammond central schools.

In the commandant’s house, Steven A. Baytos’s class was buzzing along to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with a “secret instrument” they get to keep while a volunteer played the guitar. He plans to have students write an essay comparing and contrasting traditional toys with their new electronic toys.

“This time of year, we talk about holiday traditions,” he said. “We don’t usually talk about this stuff because they learn about it here.”

He said the students particularly enjoy playing with the wooden toys, including spinning tops and miniature trebuchets that launched wooden balls into a treasure chest.

“They love their video games, but it’s something totally different,” he said.

Other stations included frosting cookies and making a paper sachet ornament to be filled with holiday-scented items like pine needles or cinnamon sticks.

Adelyne J. Jareo and Eric J. Gayne were among several second-graders who have never visited the museum before.

“It’s really pretty,” said Adelyne, 8. “I like that we’re getting to learn about what it was like in the 1860s.”

Eric, 7, thought singing traditional carols and making decorations was memorable. However, it was the faux turkey and rolls on the commandant’s dinner table that made him the most excited.

“We learned about the past and we learned they ate the same food we do,” he said. “I think it’s really cool.”

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