Education Programs

AT STAATSBURGH STATE HISTORIC SITE

Staatsburgh is a 79-room 1895 Gilded Age country estate on the Hudson River. It is also an unforgettable classroom where students explore the world of 100 years ago. Depending on their grade level, they may learn about the lifestyles of Gilded Age millionaires and servants; about immigration and industrialization; or how the estate was an independent community.

Our interpreters present lively and interactive programs that are age-appropriate for students from 2nd grade to college, and craft the presentations to meet Common Core and NYS Learning Standards. Hands-on activities and role-playing make our programs fun and memorable.

Our staff is happy to work with teachers to adjust our programs or create new ones to meet curriculum needs.

COST:

$2 per student. No charge for teachers.

 

GRANT OPPORTUNITY:

The Countess Moira Charitable Foundation, named for a granddaughter of the family that lived at Staatsburgh, generously provides a grant to pay for education program fees and for the cost to bus students to the site. Please call Staatsburgh (845-889-8851 x 338) to inquire about availability.

 

OUR PROGRAMS:

IT’S A GILDED LIFE

4TH GRADE TO COLLEGE (with age-appropriate revisions)

Students learn how life was lived in a Gilded Age mansion 100 years ago. First, the students tour the opulent 79-room home of Ogden and Ruth Livingston Mills. Then they are assigned roles as servants, guests or family members. Hands-on activities allow them to compare and contrast the lives of the servants and the gentry.

Background: Staatsburgh State Historic Site, also known as Mills Mansion, is a time-capsule of a vanished age. Here at the ancestral home of Ruth Livingston Mills, she and her husband Ogden Mills entertained the elite of New York Society from the 1880s to the 1920s in the period of American History known as the Gilded Age. The Mills’s thought of themselves as American aristocrats, modeling their lifestyle on the lifestyles of European nobility.

The Program: The introduction uses period photos to engage students in a discussion of what life was like 100 years ago, both for ordinary folk and for the wealthy Mills family. As the discussion progresses, students are invited to think about why the Mills lived such an extravagant lifestyle. Students discuss why Mrs. Mills expanded her 25-room house to 79 rooms, what the rooms were used for and by whom. As students learn how the house was used, they are introduced to the component members of the Staatsburgh community.

A tour of the mansion shows students what it was like to be a guest at Staatsburgh. Hands-on activities and role playing allow the students to explore the world of the servants and compare it with the life of the gentry.

The activities vary with the age of the students. 4th grade students become servants as they prepare the formal dining room for guests, contrasting the luxurious arrangements for guests with the utilitarian arrangements for servants. Older students will interview for a servants’ job, exploring turn-of-the-century attitudes and prejudices about immigrants. As a sharp contrast to the servants’ life, they will then learn the etiquette of attending a Gilded Age ball and compare it to going to a modern-day party.

Common Core Curriculum addressed:

-use of primary sources and artifacts; use of chronological reasoning;

– identify multiple perspectives from an historical event, NYS Local History and Government, Colonial and Revolutionary Period (Mrs. Mills’ ancestors played prominent roles in the Revolution);

Westward movement and industrialization (Mr. Mills’ father established the family fortune in the Gold Rush);

Immigration;

Child labor;

-economic decisions and their effect on the well-being of individuals;

-analysis of evidence in terms of historical and/or social context; make inferences and draw conclusions from evidence.

 

WORLD COMMUNITIES: MEET THE KING AND QUEEN OF ENGLAND

3RD GRADE ETIQUETTE PROGRAM

Through discussion and role-playing activities, students will learn etiquette practices that were expected when attending a formal visit to Staatsburgh. They will discuss examples of modern good manners and compare them to customs at Staatsburgh 100 years ago. Then they will put their skills to work as they learn the etiquette of being presented to the King and Queen.  

Background: Staatsburgh State Historic Site, also known as Mills Mansion, is a time-capsule of a vanished age. Here at the ancestral home of Ruth Livingston Mills, she and her husband Ogden Mills entertained the elite of New York Society from the 1880s to the 1920s in the period of American History known as the Gilded Age. The Mills family thought of themselves as American aristocrats, modeling their lifestyle on the lifestyles of European nobility.

Etiquette was a foundation of the Mills’ aristocratic lifestyle. The Mills and their social set learned elaborate rules of behavior from an early age. These rules guided them through the rituals of daily life, as well as teaching them what to do on very special occasions…such as meeting the King of England.

The Mills met King Edward at Wrest Park, an English country home, in 1909. Wrest Park was being rented by Ogden Mills’ brother-in-law, Whitelaw Reid, the American Ambassador to England. The Mills family had other connections to the King: Ruth Livingston Mills sister married a close friend of the King, and the Mills’ daughter Beatrice married King Edward’s Master of Horse.

The Program: Through discussion and role-playing activities, the children will learn etiquette practices that were expected when attending a formal visit in the Gilded Age. They will discuss examples of modern good manners and compare them to Gilded Age practices.

Then the students will put their etiquette skills to work. The students will adjourn to the dining room, where they will compare the etiquette of a Gilded Age formal dinner with modern polite dinner table behavior.

With their Gilded Age etiquette skills now sharpened, the students will be presented at court. A student playing the butler will announce the other students as they arrive. They will offer polite greetings to Mr. and Mrs. Mills (also played by students). Then they will be presented to the Gilded Age royal couple, King Edward and Queen Alexandra of England (once again, played by students). The students will compare and contrast the polite manner of greeting the Mills with the much more formal etiquette of meeting royalty.

Common Core Curriculum addressed:  

communities around the world;

-differences and similarities in cultures, and how they have changed over time;

-identifies leaders of world communities;

-values, beliefs and traditions;

-creates an understanding of the past using primary sources;

-Etiquette practices will show respect in issues involving difference and conflict.

 

THE STAATSBURGH COMMUNITY

2ND GRADE PROGRAM

The Staatsburgh estate was an interdependent community. Discussion, period photos, map activities and roleplaying help students understand each community member’s role and how they depended on one another.

Background: Staatsburgh State Historic Site, also known as Mills Mansion, is a time-capsule of a vanished age. Here at the ancestral home of Ruth Livingston Mills, she and her husband Ogden Mills entertained the elite of New York Society from the 1880s to the 1920s in the period of American History known as the Gilded Age. The Mills thought of themselves as American aristocrats, modeling their lifestyle on the lifestyles of European nobility.

The program: The estate at Staatsburgh was more than just a mansion – it was an interdependent community of farm workers, servants, house guests and the Mills family. This program has three components: an introduction to life 100 years ago; a tour of the mansion; and an activity that explores the Staatsburgh community.

The introduction uses period photos to engage students in a discussion of what life was like 100 years ago, both for ordinary folk and for the wealthy Mills family. As the discussion progresses, students are invited to think about why the Mills lived such an extravagant lifestyle. Students discuss why Mrs. Mills expanded her 25-room house to 79-rooms, what the rooms were used for and by whom. As students learn how the house was used, they are introduced to the component members of the Staatsburgh community.

During the tour, students see both the elegant areas where the Mills entertained their guests and the utilitarian rooms that were servants’ bedrooms and work spaces. As they go from room to room, students learn what they would do at Staatsburg if they were a guest and what they would do if they were a servant.

The activity portion starts with map activities. Students see models of estate buildings and a large map of Staatsburgh’s 2,000-acre grounds to aid them in understanding where members of the Staatsburgh community lived and worked. Students use the map to see where Staatsburgh is in relation to Albany and New York City. The map illustrates how the Mills used the Hudson River, the railroad and Route 9 to travel back and forth from the country to New York City. The map also shows the location of the farm buildings that supplied food for the estate.

After working with the map, the students do a role-playing activity in which they become Staatsburgh’s farmers, servants and owners. One by one, a component group leaves the community, leaving the others to discuss how to cope without a necessary part of their community. They discover that each group in the community depends upon all the others.

Common Core Curriculum addressed:

-community change over time

-socioeconomic perspectives

-maps

-community producers and consumers

My urban, suburban, or rural community has changed over time.

-Community studies should include content examples from cultures other than the students’ own, and from a variety of perspectives including geographic, socioeconomic, and ethnic.

-Students continue to learn how to locate places on maps.

-Rural, urban, and suburban communities provide facilities and services to help meet the

needs and wants of the people who live there.

-People in rural, urban, and suburban communities are producers and consumers of goods and services.