Texas Our Texas teaches students history through example
By Jessica Rodrigo - JRODRIGO@VICAD.COM
March 8, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated March 7, 2013 at 9:08 p.m.
Standing in the shade of his station at the Texas Our Texas living history exhibit, Tony Two Hawks played a few tranquil tunes with his wood flutes.
The first-grade students from Chandler Elementary School were silent, and their eyes locked on the Mescalero Apache as his soothing tunes mesmerized their eager minds.
Once he finished, their tiny hands shot up into the air to ask questions while others ran around the table, squeezing in between their fellow students, to soak up the bits and pieces of an older time.
There were feathers, tools, antique guns and antlers laid on the table in front of the children to provide examples of the kinds of things that were common in the 1800s.
Texas Our Texas, presented by the Children's Discovery Museum of the Golden Crescent, is a three-day living history event for students and the public.
Museum board member Wendy Crater said more than 400 students between first and eighth grade went to the VISD Mitchell Guidance Center campus to learn about what life was like around the time Texas achieved independence.
Crater's experience as a former principal and assistant principal familiarized her with the student curriculum and helped them to coordinat the event.
"We know that it's a part of the fourth- and seventh-grade material. We also try to commemorate Texas Independence Day," she said.
Students from Victoria to as far away as Beeville took part in the outdoor exhibit, learning about daily routines in the 1800s, animals and common instruments.
Just a few feet from Two Hawk's tent and his artifacts, a cow, a calf and a horse were tied to a wagon at Chap Traylor's livery exhibit, which he referred to as "Family Life on the Frontier."
"What I'm trying to get across to (students) is not just the history, but the animals and how we care for them and how we are different from what they are," he said. "The history allows me to talk to them about that."
Using his animals as an example, he explained to a group of mostly 7-year-old Chandler Elementary students what they or their parents would be doing if they were living in the 1800s.
"How many of you know how far Cuero is from here?" he asked the group. "If you didn't have a car, how would you get there?
"If you didn't have a horse, what would you use to pull your wagon?"
"A cow," one student called out, raising his hand while others chimed in with the same answer.
"What do we use cows for now?" he asked.
"And cheese," they said eagerly.
Jessica Lyles, a first-grade teacher at Chandler, said the living history event fit right into their classroom studies. Her group of students sat near a set of two camels, Abraham and Richard, learning about what the camels' role was in Texas history.
"Most people don't understand how important the camels were in Texas history. They were used tremendously in the 1850s," Crater said. "Kids get really turned on by the fact that we had camels here and that we used them - and that they carried packs and they carried people. They just like that."
Doug Baum, Texas Camel Corps owner, combined science and history in his presentation. Camels played an important part of history, he said, as they helped with moving people and merchandise to and from destinations.
Trinity Episcopal Middle School seventh-grader Brooks Reeves, 12, said the camels were her favorite part of the outdoor event.
"There are just so many weird facts about camels that I've never known or would have guessed," she said. "Everyone thinks that their humps are full of water, but they're really full of fat."
And Lyles agreed that there was a lot to learn at the event.
"We're talking about Texas this week because Texas Independence Day was on Saturday, and it was just a good opportunity to get them more interested to see live animals, people dressed up," said Lyles.