School brings homespun fun to young pioneers

Elementary students use blueberry ink, learn to square dance in activities

Mike Lawrence

— In teaching her students about pioneer life, Katie Knezevich learned a new use for blueberries.

Knezevich’s second-graders at Strawberry Park Elementary School and those in three other second-grade classes took part in “Pioneer Day” on Wednesday morning. Students sat clustered around tables in Knezevich’s classroom, dipping the stems of feathers into cups of blueberry juice and drawing pictures and letters with the makeshift quill pens and ink.

Making all that ink was not easy for Knezevich. “I crushed them last night,” she said.

“You should see her feet,” quipped paraprofessional Starr Blair, who was helping out in the classroom.

Aide Barb Smith said students had just finished a unit of study about pioneers and wrote journals about the hardships they faced.

During Wednesday’s event, students visited four classrooms, including a “one-room schoolhouse” run by teacher Don Schwartz.

Kathleen O’Connell, 7, said writing lessons on chalk slates and seeing Schwartz in full pioneer dress — including a wide-brimmed hat and overalls — was her favorite part of Pioneer Day.

Librarian Sherry Holland also took part in the event, teaching students how to square dance — to music played on vinyl records, as close to pioneer as it gets — in the school’s arcade.

Bryce Sullivan, 7, said he enjoyed creating pioneer toys in Tracy Stoddard’s class using such rustic materials as clothespins and yarn.

Some of the materials may not have been exactly from the time period.

“We’re using a few un-pioneer tools, like glue guns,” Stoddard said, as she attached hair and eyes onto a student’s doll.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail

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