Tales from the Tread: My Place, My Home
Do you know the history of your childhood home? Could you describe how they celebrated holidays; what pioneer children contributed to the economy; and, who influenced the town’s creation?
An initiative still in its infancy called “My Place, My Home” is designed to connect local kids to these local stories.
“I think it is so valuable for kids to learn local history so they have a sense of where the town came from and the people who founded it,” said Liza Rossi, Soda Creek parent-chaperone who participated in the third grade Routt County History Tour.
“My Place, My Home” was conceived by two Steamboat Springs teachers and was funded by a grant from the parent-led Challenge Fund.
The grant has three parts: revitalize the historic Fly Gulch schoolhouse; fund technology for student-created history projects; and craft Voices of the Valley stories for each grade level. The stories are delivered via living history programs in each elementary classroom and outdoor walking tours.
The Tread of Pioneers Museum is a partner in the initiative providing resources and staff. Almost 1,100 Steamboat Springs students will participate in the program this school year.
“The storytelling component of ‘My Place, My Home’ is a powerful and integral part,” said Anna White, Strawberry Park fifth-grade teacher and program creator. “For example, fifth graders stand at the foot of Howelsen Hill and imagine Carl (Howelsen) gliding through the air bringing people from around the world and money to the valley. Then they hike up to the Sulphur Cave and learn history that is not in textbooks. This allows them to take pride in their childhood home.”
As a tour guide and cultural history interpreter for over 12 years for the Tread of Pioneers Museum, I was asked to research, write and perform these stories. Each one is told from the first-person perspective of a historic Routt County resident and is correlated to Colorado Department of Education Social Studies Standards.
Kindergarteners connect to the past by celebrating winter with Lulie Crawford and the toys she brings with her. First graders meet Marcellus “Celly” Merrill, who shares about growing up near the dirt road known as Lincoln Avenue. Second graders visit Crawford homesites, springs and hear about native people. Fourth graders sympathize with Margaret Duncan Brown about the hardships of ranching in the 1900s.
“I knew my students would greatly benefit from oral history and taking field trips,” said Jessica Charpentier, Strawberry Park severe needs teacher. “Marianne talked to them in character — complete with costumes and props. This approach resonated with them so they could understand and remember important details. We were grateful for the depth and realism that she provided.
“I hope this project stands out for them throughout their school career,” added Charpentier. “‘My Place, My Home’ encourages today’s students to know their heritage so they will be more resilient: knowing what’s come before them and where they belong.”
What do students say about learning local history?
A fifth-grade student who recently walked The Secrets of The Hill Tour in the pouring rain commented, “Going to the cave and the legends attached to it were my favorite part. The only thing I recommend changing is: More time. I loved it.”
Marianne Capra is a tour guide and cultural history interpreter at Tread of Pioneers Museum.
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