Official Walking Tour Script for the Clara Barton School House

Inside of the Clara Barton School House: note the furnace, chalkboard, benches, portrait of Clara, bell, main desk, and model of the school house. All of them may serve as props during the tour or during the question portion of the interpretative plan.

Walking Tour Script:

Introduction by Tour Guide: Welcome to the Clara Barton School House, the first successful free public school in NJ funded by taxes from local Bordentown residents. Does anyone know who Clara Barton was?

(If a student answers give them the bell to ring to call students to school, if not move on. Show a picture of Clara to the students.)
Clara Barton was most famous for founding the American Red Cross, has anyone heard of the Red Cross? What does it do?

(If a student answers here you can also reward them with the small bell, if no one knows tell them: The Red Cross is an organization that provides emergency disaster relief and education, name recent events disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and Tsunami in Indonesia and explain that these are disasters the Red Cross helps with.)
Clara began her career in 1881 at age 18 as a teacher in her hometown in Eastern Massachusetts. She then attended the liberal Institution in New York in order to further her education as a teacher and during this time became very close with fellow student Mary Norton of Hightstown, NJ. While visiting Mary the two took a visit to Bordentown, NJ where Barton noticed all of the young boys playing in the streets. Barton went to the school committee and found they had already passed legislation for a free public school but never began one. With Barton’s persistence they gave her a small one room school house that started with 6 students in 1852 and by 1853 grew to 600 students, a number so large that other teachers began to educate students in homes spread throughout Bordentown.

When the Civil War broke out, she created the American Red Cross.

Tour Guide: Let’s take a trip back in time and find out what it would have been like for all of you to be one of Clara’s students during the early 1850’s.

When the bell rings all of the students are expected to come to school. Who has the bell? Ring it to call the students into the class room!

(Open the main door to the school house and take the bell from the student who has it. welcome the students inside, have the children take a seat on the benches while you make your way to the front of the classroom)
Tour Guide: Welcome class to our one room school house, today we will be working on our cursive writing and arithmetic using the chalkboard in the front of the classroom. During this time blackboards are common in school houses because they are easy to use and chalk is much cheaper and less messy then ink. (After this explanation write a series of four math problems on the board and call on a student to answer the first one, call upon other students to answer the other problems. When the problems are finished have the students return to their seats and grade the problems. If a student answers one incorrectly, have another student come up and try the problem.)
Tour Guide: Now that we have completed out arithmetic, let’s work on our cursive writing (have each child come up to the front of the room and take a piece of paper, clip board and ink pen) Each of you will be writing your first and last names, remember to be careful when dipping your fountain pens so as not to drip the ink on your cloths. Our ink is made of charcoal and will stain your clothes. When you’re finished you may turn in your papers to my desk. This desk here was used by Clara when the school was first founded.
(If a student talks during the math section or writes there name particularly badly have them sit in the dunce chair and wear the cap, or just choose a child as a volunteer.)

Tour Guide: Dunce caps are used to humiliate a child who is being bad. The term dunce is used to call a child stupid. If any of you children are exceptionally bad you would be receive thrashings as well.

Tour Guide: Does anyone have to go to the bathroom? (If someone responds use this to as a way to open your introduction to the outhouse, if not simply ask if anyone sees the bathroom? Take the children out the front door to the small red out building behind the house)

Tour Guide: This outhouse was used by students at the Clara Barton School House. At this time there was no indoor plumbing at students had to use the outhouse if they had to go to the bathroom.
End the tour by taking the students inside to retrieve their papers with their names. Ask if the students have questions about anything? Guides should know the desk is the original one used by Barton. As well as that the portrait on the wall is of Clara Barton, the stove was used to heat during the winter, no black students attended this school house, the book on the desk was used to keep track of canning or whippings the children received and why they received them and that the model of the school house was used during the reconstruction which took place in 1921.

  1. Somervill, Barbara A. Clara Barton: founder of the American Red Cross. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books, 2007.
  2. Bordentown Historical Society "Clara Barton School House." Northern Burlington Regional Chamber of Commerce. 17 Sept. 2011. <