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RJB Fifth Graders Study 18th Century Artifacts from Local Greenburgh Odell House

RJB Fifth Graders Study 18th Century Artifacts from Local Greenburgh Odell House

 Staring intently at a rusty tin lantern, a fifth-grade student observes the object with fascination and learns how people during Colonial America would commonly use this artifact to light their indoor and outdoor spaces. The lanterns held a thick candle to illuminate the space around it and could be hung on the horn of a saddle while riding a horse at night. It’s incredibly different from the way we light our properties today, but the students notice faint flickers of resemblance as they compare the artifact to items from their own life, some noting how the electric lights illuminating their own doorsteps sport a similar cone-topped design. The students work down the line of artifacts, drawing as many similarities, as well as obvious differences, as they can before approaching an old, dusty, worn-down checkerboard. They grin with excitement—some things just never change.

 “I have a chess board at home and it really looks pretty much the same as this one,” said one student. He went on to say, “But this one uses flattened musket balls as pieces; that’s definitely different!”


Greenburgh Central School District is committed to providing hands-on learning experiences that engage students creatively and challenge them to think differently to cultivate a robust, open-minded IB learner mindset. This week, the RJB fifth graders had a special chance to study rare artifacts from the 18th century within their own classroom. The opportunity coincides with their current focus on the colonization period and study of the Revolutionary War. To their surprise, all the artifacts came from a place not too far from their own school.

 About two miles from Woodlands Middle/High School sits the Odell House Rochambeau Headquarters, a historic site that served as the headquarters for the Comte de Rochambeau and his French Forces from July 6, 1781 to August 18, 1781. During that time, George Washington and the Continental Army were camped nearby, and the two generals frequently met to coordinate and acquire intelligence about the British Army and Navy. The Odell house is not only a rare example of an 18th-century farmhouse that exists today with its original details intact, but also an important historical site that serves as a reminder of the role Westchester played in the history of our country during the Revolutionary War.

 The artifacts from the house were safely transported to RJB by the volunteers from the Friends of Odell House Rochambeau Headquarters, where the students were able to observe each one up close, making personal observations and taking notes on their discoveries and conclusions. Among the artifacts were items such as shoe buckles, breech buckles and buttons from the uniforms of French Soldiers camped in the fields of Greenburgh in 1781, as well as a toaster iron, a betty lamp, and even some old musket balls. These artifacts provided valuable supplemental context for the students, who are currently studying the American Revolutionary period, and also offered a unique way for kids to see trails of history that can be found within their own community.

 RJ Bailey teacher Joseph Wootten was delighted that the Friends of OHRH were willing to lend the objects to his class and ensured that they were treated with care and respect. “I have to say that I think I’m just as excited as the students to see these artifacts in person,” said Mr. Wootten. “We’re all looking at the objects to see what has changed significantly and what hasn’t, and it’s leading to some great conversation.”