Picture this: It’s the 1850s, and you’re a trailblazing pioneer sifting through muddy Colorado soil in the hopes of finding gold. You’re trading hard-won beaver pelts for necessities like food and luxuries like sugar. Later, when it’s cold out, you spark a fire using only flint and steel.
Oh, and you’re only in the fourth grade.
Students from across Poudre School District recently got a taste of pioneer life at the district’s annual Fourth Grade Rendezvous, an event that allows kids to explore Colorado’s Wild West history through exciting hands-on activities at the Museum of Discovery.
As they stood next to the museum’s real-life artifacts, history experts taught students about life on the Colorado frontier, and then helped the students apply their new knowledge in different activities. At one station, students got laminated cards representing items pioneers might have had (beaver pelts, sugar and beef jerky, for example) and practiced trading with each other to learn about the trade economy that guided the Old West.
Fourth graders Chloe French, Maggie Block and Emelia Lopez laughed and recounted trading beaver pelts, beef jerky and bone buttons during the trading session.
“I traded my bone buttons because I wanted a beaver pelt,” Chloe said.
Then they rattled off facts about different types of wild cats – Did you know there were 40? – and described the activity they were most excited for: Going into the museum’s Discovery Dome, where they would stare into a simulation of the night sky and learn about astronomy.
Nearby, Putnam fourth grader Diego Sivelio Mendoza donned a raccoon hat and practiced rubbing flint and steel together to spark a fire. He enjoyed learning about animal tracks and he especially liked getting to practice trading.
“We learned how people survived,” he said.