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Princeton Weekly Bulletin   September 25, 2006, Vol. 96, No. 3   prev   next   current

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  • Editor: Ruth Stevens

    Calendar editor: Carolyn Geller

    Staff writers: Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Eric Quiñones

    Contributing writer: Denise Barricklow, Cass Cliatt, Karin Dienst, Teresa Riordan

    Photographers: Denise Applewhite, John Jameson

    Design: Maggie Westergaard

    Web edition: Mahlon Lovett

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Community ties

Cotsen materials go on the road

Princeton NJ — A new program this fall will provide area youngsters with hands-on access to materials from Princeton’s renowned Cotsen Children’s Library — right in their own schools.

Sheridan dons a trench coat and fedora

As part of the Cotsen Children’s Library trunk programs, Dana Sheridan will don a trench coat and fedora and demonstrate how myriorama cards work. (photo: Mark Czajkowski/The Princeton Packet)

Was “Peter Rabbit” real? What was life like in a colonial classroom? How do myriorama cards work? These and other questions will be addressed by three “trunk programs” for children aged kindergarten through third grade. The programs, slated to begin in October, are available to any school in a 10-mile radius of the Princeton campus that opts to sign up.

“We make it easy for the educators; instead of having to arrange a huge field trip and dealing with the limitations of a small library like Cotsen, we bring everything to them,” said Dana Sheridan, Cotsen’s education and outreach coordinator, who plans to act as the on-site facilitator for each trunk presentation. “We set the materials right up in the classroom, and use primary sources and do it in an innovative, hands-on manner.”

Children who adore “Peter Rabbit” can learn more about the little girl behind the literary classic with the “Beatrix and Peter” trunk. “Beatrix Potter had a very lonely childhood and she wrote about and sketched her own pets, including Peter and Benjamin,” said Sheridan. Many of her books were derived from illustrated letters she wrote to her governess’ children, Sheridan said, noting that Cotsen owns the “picture letter” for what later became “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher.”

Besides getting to sketch their own rabbit, and looking at incredibly detailed and remarkably talented drawings Potter did of the natural world, the children will learn about how eccentric Potter was. “She used to travel with a hedgehog,” Sheridan said. Youngsters also will get to create their own picture letter and will go home with a facsimile of Cotsen’s “Jeremy Fisher” letter.

Students can go back in time with the “Colonial Classroom” trunk and learn what school was like in the 1700s. This trunk even boasts an old-fashioned schoolmaster: Sheridan, who plans to dress in a wig and colonial garb. Students will practice their recitation and work with slates, quills, hornbooks and primers. They’ll even learn what was done with troublemakers.

“There were unipods, one-legged stools, that the kids had to balance on with dunce caps, and there were whispering sticks, which were put in their mouths, like a horse bit, if they were caught whispering,” said Sheridan. Each child also will get to take home a facsimile of a 1776 copybook that the library owns.

For the “Private Eyes, Incorporated” trunk, Sheridan will don a trench coat and fedora to encourage children to use their deductive reasoning to solve some “rare book mysteries.” This trunk will include a reproduction deck of myriorama cards, which contain pictures that can be arranged in any way to tell a story. The cards were a popular parlor game from the 1900s, and the students will be challenged to work in groups and present their story to the class.

Reservations for the program, which is free of charge, will be accepted at the end of September. For more information, contact the library at 258-2697 or visit


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