Jennifer Dwyer's high school has all the modern learning tools, but one of her favorite history lessons comes from a simple stone schoolhouse, built in 1724, that sits across the street from her Davidsonville home.
The Annearrundel Free School, believed to be Maryland's first public school, opened almost 100 years after the colony's founding, "for the encouragement of learning," according to the Free School Act of 1723.
"It's, like, real history," said the ninth-grader at South River High, looking across her lawn at the white structure with the brick chimney. "They had no air conditioning or heaters in the winter, and in the summer in scorching heat they had no air conditioning. You learn some of their customs."
But the school, which survived a revolutionary war and a civil war, was abandoned in the 1950s and slowly decayed. It has been fully restored by the county's Association of Retired Teachers, which, in May, began giving tours every Sunday. "It was the beginning of public education," said Howard Hall, president of the association. "It's our heritage. We should never forget it."
The school, in the 3000 block of Lavall Road, is intended to look as it did in the 1800s, during its busiest years. While a telephone and some electricity have been added, much of the decoration -- the desks, spinning wheel, black iron pots and scythe -- are relics donated by retired teachers and libraries.
Walking around the rows of tiny wooden benches lined up before a lectern, Mr. Hall picked up a tin lunch pail that he said dated back to the 1800s.
"This is the greatest lunch pail," he said, pulling off the cup, which also functioned as a handle, and pointing at the split-level canister.
"Here's your cup. If your mother wants to keep something warm she puts it in here. Then you still have room for some type of sandwich or biscuit or fruit. Isn't that neat? No type of Power Rangers on this."
On tours, visitors can use slate pencils to etch sentences onto slateboards or practice their addition in boxes of sand. Watch your manners, however, a peaked green dunce cap sits on a ledge above the door.
In an adjacent room that was added in the 1800s for storage, Mr. Hill sorted through old frayed books such as McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book of 1886 and Ray's New Elementary Arithmetic, which cost 35 cents in the late 1800s.
The questions revealed the kind of world for which the students were preparing: "If a blacksmith uses four horseshoes for one horse, how many horses can he shoe with 20 shoes?"
Mr. Hill said students, mostly boys until the mid-1800s, needed to learn to divide acres of open land and, being so close to water, learn navigational skills and bookkeeping skills to keep track of trade.
Sitting across the street, Jennifer said she was most surprised by the lofts above the school that housed students who lived many miles away.
"Just the surroundings and the lack of technology," said the 14-year-old, who uses a calculator in her math class. "It makes you appreciate more."