HENDRICKS - Hendricks elementary students were transported back in time for the day while touring the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead recently in DeSmet, S.D.
Throughout the field trip, the kindergarten through fourth-grade children were able to get a glimpse of what pioneer life was like more than 100 years ago. The students not only toured the homestead, Hendricks third-grade teacher Bethann Murphy said, but they also took advantage of the opportunity to grind wheat seed, create corn dolls and make jump ropes.
"They realized that living in the 1800s was hard work," Murphy said. "The students especially enjoyed taking the reins and leading the mules and horses on a wagon ride to the school house."
Hendricks kindergartners and first-graders pose in the animal barn at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in DeSmet, S.D.
Hendricks second-grade teacher Larissa Brelje said her students savored the wagon ride experience.
"We got to ride in and drive the covered wagon," she said. "We even got to pet the mules."
Once at the one-room school house, the students took part in an 1880s school session, which included wearing pinafores, bonnets and straw hats.
Hendricks first-grade teacher Jenai Wright also had no trouble summing up her students' favorite activity.
"Driving the mule wagon was fun," she said.
The curious students also had the opportunity to interact with various creatures while at the animal barn. They also spent time playing outdoors.
"The fourth-grade class really enjoyed our day," fourth-grade teacher Sharon Evert said. "The boys had a great time driving the horses pulling the covered wagon. Another activity they liked was making ropes and playing on the old merry-go-round and teeter-totter."
While the third-graders were "thrilled to be able to steer the enormous horses pulling the wagon," they also enjoyed using the jump ropes as a lasso.
First-grader Ayla Texley said she like making jump rope during the field trip, but, "I wouldn't want to live back then because the family had to use the same bathwater in a barrel."
According to the Homestead history, free land lured the Ingalls family and a rush of settlers to Dakota territory to claim a homestead. In 1862, the United State government passed the Homestead Act, allowing a person to claim 160 acres of land if they could live on the land for five years and farm 10 acres.
"My favorite part of the trip was driving the wagon because I never have been on a horse," said third-grader Issiah Colgrove. "The classroom was nice and I liked the bell they rang when it was time to dismiss the children. If I lived in that time period it would be nice for hunting."
Pioneer life was anything but easy, however, and a lot of ambitious settlers struggled. Charles Ingalls filed on a homestead at the land office in Brookings in February of 1880. Soon after, he built a little house on the homestead, where the family lived and worked. During the winter months, however, the family moved into town.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote four "Little House" books that take place on the homestead, including "By the Shores of Silver Lake," which details the family's experience living in the surveyor's house during the winter of 1879-80.
"The Long Winter" describes the adventures and trials the Ingalls family faced during the winter of 1880-81, the first in their little house in the Dakota Territory.
At the historic DeSmet location, the Hendricks students also got to see native prairie grasses and experience what it was like to live in a dugout home, which the Ingalls family lived in while on the banks of Plum Creek near Walnut Grove.
"The kindergartners liked going in the dugout, making the jump ropes and dolls, but especially liked the opportunity to 'drive' the horses to the school house," kindergarten teacher Jessica Jordahl said.