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Eleanor Brumett knew fishing hooks when she saw them. So when station attendant Rusty Kean asked her to identify the metal slivers, the blonde preschooler spoke right up.
Across the grassy lawn of ABC-Stewart School, on Columbus’ west side, preschooler William Bowling watched in amazement as Jim Loesch ran a key tool along three lengths of twine. The key spun the lengths together to make a rope.
The youngster was given a piece to take home. He left with a giant smile.
ABC-Stewart School officials, parents and volunteers entertained hundreds of students ages 2 to 12 on Sept. 27 during Pioneer Day, an event held once every three years to help young people see, feel and experience American history.
Groups of children cycled through one of 18 stations every 15 minutes. They featured community members and teachers dressed in period costumes explaining and/or demonstrating everything from woodcarving to square dancing.
Some of the younger students made pioneer or Native American outfits out of felt and accessorized them with feathers and other decorations.
Linda Becker, administrator for the private school, said Pioneer Day started at least 42 years ago. She said that for the entire school year, teachers will relate their lessons when possible with science, social studies and other school subjects to emphasize American history.
Pioneer Day brings it all together.
“It lets them experience life in those times,” school director Mike Gorday said. “The students come away knowing a lot more about what went on in that time period.”
Second-graders watched with interest Friday as Daniel Paquette, dressed in suspenders and a wide-brimmed hat, explained how long-handle axes like the one he held was a vital tool in pioneer days to build cities and towns. He told them that the country used to be covered in forest from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.
Kyle Davis, a history and social studies teacher and event coordinator, read stories of Americana — giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan, for example — to students who cycled through the station. In folklore, Bunyan is often accompanied by his giant animal companion, Babe the Blue Ox.
Davis, who coordinated the event for the first time, said he began reaching out to people to staff Pioneer Day right when the school year began. But the effort will be worth it, he said, if the interest students showed during the event sustains itself the rest of the school year.
Some of the students will travel to Washington, D.C., in May as a grand finale to this year’s American history theme, Gorday said. He said the students would visit historical sites along the Washington Mall, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol.
Belgian horse-drawn wagon rides and a petting zoo, both provided by the Shireman family farm in Columbus, were perhaps the most popular attractions during Pioneer Day.
Cheryl Shireman said she and her family love to help promote American history to children during Pioneer Day. She said the students that day loved the petting zoo, which featured miniature horses, miniature donkeys, a pigmy goat named Molly and a duck named Daffy, among others.
Fourth-graders Cayden Brand and M.J. Gilliatt said their favorite animal was the goat. They said they liked that it was soft.
Square dancing, taught by reading teacher Christine Butler, had students bowing and curtsying and learning dance moves such as the do-si-do, all standard moves in pioneer barn dances.
One group of students in Grades 3 to 6 smiled and laughed as they formed into two lines facing one another, grabbed the hands of their partners and danced in circles.
Gorday explained that ABC-Stewart teachers choose the station they want to man during Pioneer Day. For Butler, square dancing was a natural; she is the cheerleading coach.
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