The rustic scent of Joanna Furnace’s campfires greeted 252 students from Twin Valley Middle School May 17 as they disembarked from seven buses. Twin Valley’s fifth-grade students visited the historic iron-making community for the fourth year in a row for a fun-filled day of educational programs.

As the morning sun warmed the Joanna Furnace grounds, students, teachers, and chaperones scattered to find their color-coded groups. Students were divided into eight large groups for all of their activities.

“The Hay Creek volunteers came through and organized some really fun hands-on activities and educational programs for the students,” said Hay Creek Valley Historical Association Executive Director Mark Zerr.

The educational programs presented were A Civil War Soldier’s Life, the Day at Joanna Tour, and Early American Technology, and hands-on activities included open-fire cooking, tin smithing, pottery, butter making, weaving, pipe drilling, candle making, and quilling.

Most of the programs were similar to what was presented to last year’s Twin Valley students, but the tin smithing activity was new this year. Ray Oxenford, of The Oxenford’s Country Crafts and Things, volunteered his time and donated the materials for students to create a napkin/letter holder from tin. “Our fall festival goers jump at the chance to buy Pennsylvania Dutch crafts from the Oxenfords, so we jumped at the chance to have Ray teach tin smithing to the students,” said Zerr.

Hay Creek volunteer Linda Ott coordinated the historic cooking program, which saw students prepare a seasonal root stew in an iron kettle over an open fire. They also made rhubarb cobbler, cornbread, and salad using 19th Century recipes. Students cut vegetables, made noodles, and made fresh butter, which they spread on the cornbread they made in cast-iron skillets.

While the food cooked, Hay Creek volunteers Kathy Townley and Megan Stains taught students about uses for plants they can find in their own backyards as well as uses for herbs in Joanna Furnace’s 19th Century Square Garden. “The students were amazed by all the different ways 19th Century people used dandelion, which is something most people only see as a weed,” said Townley.

Several of the students were also surprised to learn that children younger than them fought in the Civil War. Interpreters for the 149th PVI Bucktails volunteered their time to teach the students about life during the Civil War. Robert and Rhonda Marut, of Catawissa, PA, gave a medical impression to the students which discussed ways doctors and nurses treated injuries during the Civil War.

Civil War Weapons Specialist Ed Thomas, with the assistance of his wife Carla Thomas, brought a collection of antique weapons to show the students weapons technology of the day. They even lined the students up and showed them different drill formations that were used.

Civil War interpreter Craig Swinn rounded out the Civil War program by teaching the students how the bugle was more than a musical instrument during the Civil War. “Hearing the bugle echoing through the hillside really set the tone for the day,” said Hay Creek Valley Historical Association President Ron Schlegel. The students froze in place when they first heard the sound of “Taps” play during the morning session.

Hay Creek’s Over the Hill Gang led demonstrations in the Mechanical Technology building to teach students about simple machines. Volunteer George Loughery likes to show the students how they can lift heavy objects with minimal force using pulleys. “I usually pick one of the smaller students and show him how strong he can be by using pulleys to lift another student who is heavier than him,” said Loughery.

As temperatures reached the 90s, some of the students became distracted by the heat. However, the Hay Creek volunteers, several of whom are retired teachers, know how to bring the students back and keep them engaged. Volunteer Jack Woods said most of his students were on their best behavior, but he had to use his stern “teacher’s voice” once or twice. Woods gave tours of the Casting House and taught the students about making iron.

The Hay Creek Valley Historical Association hosts many educational programs throughout the year, which they do with the help of their volunteers.

“The dedication from our volunteers is incredible. … [This organization] wouldn’t be able to host educational programs like this without their tireless work,” said Zerr of the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association volunteers.

Joanna Furnace is located at 1250 Furnace Road , Geigertown, PA. To learn more about their educational programs and upcoming events, visit

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