A classroom masquerading as an animal farm will overflow with lessons of rural yesteryear — all for hundreds of Bartholomew County preschoolers, kindergartners and the public today and Wednesday.

Not to mention other entertainment Saturday at Pioneer Days, where education meets entertainment.

Cheryl Shireman stands as the creative force behind the 200-acre, nonprofit Shireman Homestead on Columbus’ west side. She teams with Central Middle School eighth-grade teachers Karla Eudy and Mindy Summers to equip 60 students to act as 1900-era miners, prohibition advocates, cowboys and other characters at the property’s Western town, mine shaft and other areas.

“I am so excited — almost like a kid right before Christmas,” Shireman said of the school-driven weekday presentations and the more general offerings Saturday at the property, 7060 W. County Road 200N.

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All activities during the three days are open to the public.

More than 300 students are expected to visit both today and Wednesday in the fourth such gathering of antiquity and amusement.

Proceeds from the $10-per-person admission go to cover costs related to her homestead’s bus tours of area nursing homes and related facilities with critters in tow such as miniature horses Precious and Princess; 4-month-old donkey Blossom, who sidles up next to Shireman for a cheek-to-cheek with her owner; Lucky the duck, already a veteran of church and similar visits, and many others.

“These visits are huge — and not just because the people get to see the animals,” Shireman said.

Some nursing home residents who seldom have mentioned their past have met her menagerie and then excitedly recalled former pets and farm stories from their youth. During National Nursing Home Week next week, she would like to make 50 visits.

“That could be exhausting, but well worth it,” she said.

Central students are ready for their role in turning back the clock today and Wednesday. They will sport period costumes and greet visitors with scripted intros and historical tidbits that they researched and wrote for social studies and language arts classes.

“We’ve reminded our students that these young children’s attention spans might be a little shorter than what they are used to,” Eudy said.

Come Saturday, a cast of professional actors will enact gunfights and Columbus performer Terry Clark will be in the Shireman Western saloon to play Buffalo Bill Cody and sing songs of the prairie and to spin stories of his exploits.

“That ought to be really neat,” Clark said. “The saloon is the perfect place for Buffalo Bill.”

Also on Saturday, live band Centerline will perform.

Scheduled proceedings will go on rain or shine. But whatever the weather, she wants these three days and her nursing home visits to overflow with a different kind of sunshine.

“I always want to leave behind a trail of smiles,” she said.

Turning back the clock

What: Pioneer Days, featuring 1900s-era costumed characters sharing period history, trick horse shows, a barn’s petting zoo, wagon rides, live music (on Saturday) and other activities.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today and Wednesday, and 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine

Where: Shireman Homestead, 7060 W. County Road 200N. Take Jonathan Moore Pike to County Road 325 West. Left onto County Road 200 North.

Admission: $10 per person.

Information: 812-372-2946 or shiremanhomestead.com.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.