History came to life on the playground at J.A. Taylor Elementary School as fourth-graders became part of a mountain men camp, tossed tomahawks and learned firsthand how prospectors panned for gold.
Some 90 fourth-graders from the classes of Ellen Jepp-son, Sylvia Sorenson and Barbara Blair spent Thursday and Friday out of the classroom living Utah's past. The activity was a culmination of a yearlong study of state history."The kids get a hands-on experience to learn what their ancestors did. They read about history, but this makes it come alive," said Judy Christensen, a parent volunteer, who helped cook scones for the children to eat.
"These are the kinds of things kids remember. They touch with their hands, taste it, they smell it, they feel it and they see all of the things the pioneers went through," she said.
During the two-day outdoor activity, children saw demonstrations about dutch oven cooking, building a fire with flint and steel, archery, tomahawk throwing, rope making, taffy pulling, quilting, tatting, black powder rifle shooting and candle dipping. On Wednesday, students at the school attended an assembly on Native American culture including learning steps of an American Indian dance.
Jeppson explained that the activity, which has been held for three years, helps students better understand the lives of mountain men like Jim Bridger and Lewis and Clark, as well as those of Native Americans and Mormon pioneers.
About 30 people, most of them parents, volunteered to help out. The students had sold pizza earlier in the year to pay for the event and a local grocer also donated food.
"We have talked about the geography of Utah and how that affected the shelter and clothing," she said. "We also talked about the Mormon pioneers. Along with learning about their survival skills we also learned what they did for fun."
Thursday morning, rotating groups of students listened intently as mountain man Bob Tanner sat outside a tepee and spun yarns about mountain men adventures, while other students took a try at throwing a tomahawk. Other classes at the school were invited to observe the activities.
Across the yard, other children fashioned their own "possible bags" from leather hide and deer bone. The bags were a type of survival kit that early trappers wore on their belts. Other children viewed pioneer era antiques and American Indian crafts. Later in the day they were scheduled to learn square dancing and cook food on hot rocks.
At the rope making demonstration, fourth-graders Andrew Fager, Andrew Zaugg and Thomas Allred joined in to wind twine into rope. Andrew Fager said that he liked getting out of class for the activity.
"Math is a lot more boring," he said.
Classmate Shane Carlson said he thought it be fun to be a pioneer and David Reed said it was better than sitting in class. Tim Youngberg thought that it was interesting to learn about all the things that early settlers did to survive.