By Shannon Hartley

Special to the Herald Review

REED CITY — Before computers and sophisticated machinery, our ancestors had to perform necessary tasks by hand. Last week, fifth graders from Reed City Area Schools took a trip to the Big Rapids Antique Farm and Power Club and stepped off the bus into another time in history. For the day, students would experience life in the 1800s.

In 2003, club member John Stenberg started this educational program with the first event that brought 400 students from four schools “to learn how much work was involved to do things without the modern technologies.” Having an educational day allows the club to keep its nonprofit status. Over the years, different schools have been invited each fall to attend the event.

“We try to have a rotation going, with one school a year, so many schools can have the chance to come here,” said volunteer Betty Eichenberg.

Students visited 16 interactive stations that taught them about methods used in everyday life. In many of the stations, they were able to use the equipment themselves and get a sense of the hard work necessary to live. Students split wood, shelled corn then ground it into corn flour, made butter from whipping cream, used a cornstalk silage, twisted rope from twine, hooked logs to move them and watched a demonstration of an old saw mill. They also learned to hand-stitch fabrics and crochet a rag rug.

Brenden Wetherel from Marie Calabrese’s class eagerly participated in every spot.

“This is like the best field trip in the world,” said Wetherel.

A short tour of the power club’s collection of antique farm equipment also was on the agenda. The hands-on learning kept everyone busy for the day.