Elementary School Children Visit the American Heritage Center

The AHC had a great time on March 7 hosting grades K-6 from Carbon County School District #2.  The Oregon Trail was the featured topic.  All of the students, teachers and parent chaperones were treated to a tour to begin their visit, thanks to reference archivist John Waggener and Simpson Institute archivist Leslie Waggener.  Leslie recalls how excited the students were by the AHC storage area, especially the compact shelving that “magically” moves back and forth.  It took several attempts to tempt the students away from those fascinating shelves.

Sweet Water Station I.T., Military Posts and Telegraph Stations on the Oregon Trail in Wyoming, 1863. Grace Raymond Hebard, #400008, Box 5, Folder 41, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Sweet Water Station I.T., Military Posts and Telegraph Stations on the Oregon Trail in Wyoming, 1863. Grace Raymond Hebard, #400008, Box 5, Folder 41, University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

After the tour, reference archivist Amanda Stow sat down with the kindergarten through 2nd grade students to read Roughing It on the Oregon Trail, an age-appropriate picture book by Diane Stanley that describes a typical emigrant journey.  Oohs and aahs were prevalent.  Next Amanda, Leslie and digitization supervisor Jamie Greene asked the students to compare and contrast drawings and photographs depicting the Oregon Trail journey with pictures from life today.  A photo of a convenience store/gas station and a drawing of Fort Laramie had students noticing that both were stopovers for supplies, but that you couldn’t put gasoline in oxen to make them go.  They talked about the importance of grasslands and water for the emigrants’ mode of transportation.  The K – 2 activities culminated with a drawing session in which each student drew some aspect of the Oregon Trail that interested them.  It was fun to see the pride when a number of the students showed off their work to Amanda, Leslie, and Jamie, and the teachers.  In fact, one 1st grade student loved the attention so much she produced a number of lovely renditions of purple, yellow and orange Conestoga wagons.

Photo of Mormon trail, used as example of pioneers and westward expansion. Photofile: Trail-Oregon-W.H. Jackson Art. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Photo of Mormon trail, used as example of pioneers and westward expansion. Photofile: Trail-Oregon-W.H. Jackson Art. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Processing archivist Laura Jackson, processing archivist Emily Christopherson, and digital programs manager Tyler Cline led the activity for the 3rd-6th graders, who in groups of three and four went to different stations to explore the Oregon Trail through maps, photographs, paintings, and diaries.  The kids read firsthand accounts of pioneers through letters, and viewed an actual trail diary, complete with faded period script.  Though the handwriting of the period gave them a bit of a challenge, they comprehended the pioneers’ experiences through transcripts.  The groups also got to see how the trails corresponded to geographical features such as mountains and rivers, and set the path for future railroads and highways, through a series of maps.  As an added bonus, the groups watched a film of early tourists at Yellowstone National Park, and drew comparisons between early pioneer days, visitors at the dawn of the tourist age in the 1920s, and visits they themselves might have taken to the park.

Map from postcard. Photofile: Trail-Oregon, folder #2. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Map from postcard. Photofile: Trail-Oregon, folder #2. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

All in all, the students saw how hard life on the trail was for the early pioneers, and how different it was from their lives today.  It was a pleasure to host Carbon County School District #2.

-Leslie Waggener, Simpson Institute Archivist; Laura Jackson, Processing Archivist; Tyler Cline, Digital Programs Manager

This entry was posted in K-12 education, Oregon trail and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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