Dolores third graders took a walk back in time a few weeks ago for their annual living history museum.
This was the fifth or sixth year the event has happened, said teacher Angela Lowe. Students take on the roles of key players in the history of the Dolores River Valley and act out events that shaped the area, as a way to connect the past and present.
“We have so many families who have lived here for such a long time,” Lowe said. “And so they have grandparents or family members they know that had experiences at McPhee Lumber Camp. That feeling of community and just understanding the history of where they live.”
On Dec. 19, parents and family members grabbed tickets and followed a “railroad line” down the elementary school hallway to visit rooms devoted to the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, local agriculture and the logging industry and McPhee Lumber Camp.
Students played the parts of farmers, loggers, shop owners and train conductors to depict the valley’s history as it changed over time. This was the first year that the students opted to tell the story of McPhee and Big Bend through the lens of a grandfather speaking to his granddaughter and think about how the now-recreational area once supplied a great deal of lumber throughout the state.
The museum allows different students to access and engage with the curriculum in their own ways, Lowe said.
“Every kid accesses that, because they all have so many talents and so many different ways, so it isn’t just kids who are strong in reading or math and academics,” she said. “Kids who are super creative, and love painting the backdrops and building the props. And those kids who are more expressive, are really getting into the presentation piece and the drama of it.”
It’s all about project-based learning, and it incorporates a variety of 21st century skills – from communication to collaboration to critical thinking.
The living museum also gives students and their parents and family members a sense of where they come from. They start by looking at westward expansion, then trace the movements and changing industries that shaped Dolores, migration patterns and lifestyles.
“I think it’s great to see why it changed,” said Casey Russell, another third grade teacher. “The railroad is no longer here because there was no more mining. That was happening, and I think that’s really powerful for kids to see and understand.”