ST. FLORIAN — If Laura Ingalls Wilder were alive today, she’d be hard-pressed to find a birthday celebration any greater than the one Riverhill School third-graders held in her honor Thursday.
The 13 students of Trisha Mathis’ class dressed in pioneer-period costumes and spent the day doing many of the activities that were popular among children in the mid- to late 19th century.
Born Feb. 7, 1867, novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder penned 18 books about her life, beginning in her youth in the prairie lands of Kansas and Minnesota.
The “Little House on the Prairie” books, through the years, have become American classics and continue to be widely read by young audiences.
Riverhill students are ending their first of a two-week study on the series.
They are reading the books in class.
But Thursday was all about celebration of a book series and an author the students have come to adore.
“Doing the research from back then was really fun,” said third-grader Reed Trapp. “It seems like those kids back then got to play a lot. I’d like to get to run around and play all the time like they did.”
But there were aspects of pioneer life that Trapp said he wouldn’t enjoy.
“I don’t like to hunt so that would be the bad thing for me living back then,” he said.
Wilder was 65 when she began writing her books. She died in 1957 at age 90.
Third-grader Ruthie Mitchener, in full costume including dress, pinafore and matching bonnet, said she enjoyed the study and hopes to one day visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home, now a public museum.
The students’ research uncovered information they said they found interesting, such as the fact that Wilder taught school at the age of 15.
“She was a small girl, so many of her students were probably bigger than she was, and older,” Mitchener said.
Student Brooks Moore dressed to represent Charles Ingalls, Laura’s father. He said he enjoyed studying the multifaceted man who farmed and was an accomplished fiddle player.
“His fiddle is still on display in a Mansfield, Missouri, museum,” Moore said. “I’ve liked the whole project, but I’ve really liked learning about ‘Pa.’ ”
Mathis said all her students embraced the study of Wilder and her writings. In fact, she said, it was the students’ idea.
“I was trying to inspire them to read but their passion for this study has gone way beyond anything I could have imagined,” Mathis said.
Thursday’s activities included games such as “Ring Around the Rosey” and “Drop the Button,” making their own butter and eating maple cakes.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.