Making children smile and laugh while at the same time providing a good lesson in history is a challenge best appreciated by teachers. But for Carl Hatfield, a West Jordan resident who has spent nearly 40 years visiting schools all over Utah not as a teacher but as a performer.
Hatfield enjoys the challenge of stimulating the natural curiosity of young students and satisfying the curiosity with demonstrations using real objects with historical significance.During the hourlong presentation, students get an opportunity to see a rock that floats, wood that sinks, steel that can turn to fire and water that creates light. They also seek demonstrations of phonographs dating back more than 100 years, shoes worn by a Confederate soldier during the Civil War, part of a cannon ball that dates to about 1850, even a rope that seems to tie itself into knots.
Watching Hatfield demonstrate his objects and tell the history of the various items makes one wonder who is having more fun, the kids or Hatfield. Hatfield's face and voice are full of life as he moves from object to object. He weaves a tale full of information to go with each demonstration, giving the historical background and a lesson to provide knowledge without the drudgery of a schoolbook approach.
The rapt attention and spontaneous oohs and ahs that the demonstrations elicit are ample proof that the children enjoy their learning experience.
For the 70-year-old Hatfield, who is retired from Hercules, getting out to the schools and an occasional senior citizens center is the spark that keeps life interesting. "I thoroughly enjoy going to the schools and showing these kids things that they wouldn't see any other way. The senior citizens enjoy it because it brings back a bit of the past. Often they start singing along with the records I use in the demonstrations."
Hatfield said he welcomes the opportunity to visit new schools and hopes to keep his traveling history demonstration on the road for several years to come.