Hands on History

I had a fun opportunity a couple weeks ago to attend a field trip with my fourth grader.  This year in school they learned about the pioneers.  We live in Utah and the pioneers who settled here are a big deal.  They overcame a lot and are an example of perseverance and hard work.

The kids got to dress up as pioneers for the day and were bused to a park where 13 stations were set up.   Each station having to do with what life would be like as a pioneer.  It was amazing.  The amount of volunteers alone was impressive.  I signed up to be a chaperone of one of the groups, so I got to see every station.  They are as follows:

  1. Games – three games were shown here.  One was arm wrestling.  The second was where you lay on your back, shoulders together but your body is laid out in the opposite direction.  Then you lift up your leg three times and on the third you hook your legs together and see who can get the other to flip over.  The third was where you sit facing each other, holding onto the same stick and you have to see who can pull the other over.
  2. Sewing – learned to sew a button onto a piece of fabric.
  3. Sawing – yes, they had actual two man saws that the kids got to use to cut logs.
  4. String games – a piece of string, tied together at the end, where you learned to make a witches broom (my favorite), cup and saucer, hat, and the Eiffel tower.
  5. Quilting – two beautiful quilts laid out on the table and each person got to sew up a square with corn kernels, so each kid went a way with a bean bag.
  6. Butter making – learned to make butter and took turns shaking it.
  7. Scones – Got to take their freshly made butter and go make scones. The dough was already prepared and they needed to stretch it out, then it was fried and given back.  Slather some butter and honey and boom! – total tastiness.
  8. Yo Yo’s – Got to learn how to make a yo yo out of a button and string.
  9. Horse shoes – played a game of horse shoes.
  10. Fudge – got to hear a pioneer story as they passed around a ziplock bag with all the ingredients inside, squeezing it as they went.  By the time the story was done, fudge was made and then eaten.
  11. Marbles – learned the traditional way of playing marbles.
  12. Punch – they took a round piece of metal, put a picture of an animal on it and hit the dots, that made up the animal, through the paper with hammer and nail.  Then got a nice metal picture.
  13. Hunting – used rubber band guns to hit pictures, taped to a tarp, of the animals they would have hunted during the time period.

Everyone had a blast.  This is the kind of hands on learning that really stays with kids.  My son was so excited for this activity.  They had learned about the pioneers and already did a performance for the parents about the history of Utah.   The teachers continued to teach about these trailblazers and created projects where the kids had to decide what they would take with them to travel across the plains.  All of the lessons before hand prepared them to really appreciate this field trip.

Everyone knows history is important, we learn from past mistakes and successes, as well as gain empathy and connection.  The enthusiasm that this activity brought reaches further.  Having been shown the joy that comes from knowing about others and what their lives were like, they now have an experience they can lean on as they venture forth in the world.  They’ll have been shown the joy that can come from learning of people – including those who are still living, about people’s different cultures and communities.  I am hopeful that these kids will be more interested in those around them and be willing to gain knowledge from the life stories and perspectives of others.


Photo by Jon Toney on Unsplash

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