The news was greeted with happy enthusiasm by teachers throughout the area: after a hiatus of two years, the Bradford Landmark Society will again host the Crook Farm School Program for 4th grade students from Pennsylvania and New York State schools. This year’s program will be held May 16 through June 10.
Participating in the School Program each spring has become a tradition among local schools. Nearly 30,000 students have been a part of the School Program since it began 43 years ago and this year almost 600 students are scheduled to attend.
Held at the historic Crook Farm, a living history museum located five miles north of Bradford on Seaward Avenue, this unique educational program offers students a glimpse of typical 19th century farm life as well as experiencing lessons in a one room schoolhouse classroom.
Named for Erastus and Betsy Crook, early Tuna Valley pioneers, the Crook farm was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 during the Bicentennial year. The complex consists of the original 1850 era Crook family farmhouse, summer kitchen, barn, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, weavers’ shed, candle shop, one room schoolhouse, and a replica of the first bank in Bradford.
The program was founded in 1979 by local retired schoolteacher Beulah Blair who visualized the Crook Farm as an interactive history venue that was relevant to the pioneer history of the area and which corresponded to the lessons being taught at the 4th grade level in local schools. Believing that the past itself is an important teacher, the program emphasizes the basic and sometimes forgotten skills of the yesterday with the present, illustrating the daily life on a rural farm of the late 19th century.
Children learn in an entertaining and informative manner, led by knowledgeable Landmark volunteers dressed in period costumes. And, as thousands of the students who have attended the Crook Farm School Program in the past can tell you, it also is a lot of fun.
Students are encouraged to feel as though they have been transported back in time. The students, many of whom come dressed in old fashioned dresses, long skirts, overalls, bonnets and straw hats, enjoy a “hands on” approach to history. It’s not just a walking tour through the building and grounds. Students dip candles, press clothes with sad irons heated on a wood-burning stove, launder clothes in wash tubs, work with hand tools and card wool and weave on a loom. A large garden near the barn showcases the types of vegetables that were grown by the Crook family.
Inside the authentic 1880 schoolhouse, students participate in spelling bees, math lessons (casting out nines, anyone?), practice writing skills with pen and ink and take turns standing beside their desk and reciting a famous saying or proverb which they have memorized — and must explain what it means!
The focal point of the Crook Farm School Program, School House No. 8, was built around 1850 near Crooker House Lane, west of Bradford, for the children of the employees of the Nusbaum Wood Chemical Works which was located near present day Glendorn.
It served as a regular schoolhouse for the area children until 1929 when several schools were consolidated and the West Branch School (now demolished) was built. Eventually, the building was donated to the Bradford Landmark Society and moved to the farm in 1975.
The one-room school classroom is authentic, complete with wooden floors, potbellied stove, and antique desks with inkwells, dipping pens, and a vintage blackboard originally used in the Sartwell School. Two entrance doors, one for boys and one for girls, are typical features in school houses of the period.
Registration for the School Program began in early March. Schools attending this year are Allegany-Limestone Elementary School, School Street Elementary School, The Learning Center, The Christian Academy, Ellicottville Elementary School, and Portville Elementary School. All local schools, parochial schools, and home schooled children are invited to participate.
The School Program supports both Pennsylvania Core Education and New York State Learning Standards.