Living History

Museum enrichment program brings past to life


Rim Country Museum Board members Pat Lundblad and Anna Mae Deming strolled through the Lone Pine Hotel on Main Street Thursday and explained the old-fashioned items decorating the place to the elementary school students in their tour group.

The students in the after-school program learned about flour grinders, shoe lasts, old-fashioned irons, and items of clothing that looked like they belonged on an Old West movie set.

The students, who are all part of the district's gifted program, toured the hotel as part of a museum enrichment program sponsored by the Payson School District ant the Rim Country Museum.

The idea behind the program is to supplement the district's curriculum with real-life history lessons conducted by Rim Country Museum board members and other experts in the community, said museum historian Stan Brown.

Brown, a former president of the Rim Country Museum Board, proposed the plan to Payson School Superintendent Herb Weissenfels in October.

Confronted with limited funds, the state school board has left social studies out of its requirements, Brown said.

"Arizona history is taking a backseat," he said. "This (enrichment program) was an idea I felt strongly about."

Leaving Arizona history out of the schools' curriculums is wrong, Brown said.

"We developed a policy statement urging the school board to incorporate local history into the curriculum at the schools," he said. "Mr. Weissenfels was very receptive to the idea and took it to the school board."

The museum board members suggested that the district offer school credit for a number of community learning activities, including:

• Living history programs in which participants play the parts of Apaches and early settlers for demonstrations at the museum or other public functions;

• A high school student docent program that gives students the chance to serve as guides at the Rim Country Museum;

• Oral history projects, in which students tape interviews with members of their families, members of early pioneer families or other interesting characters in the area;

• Guided field trips to cattle ranches, the Payson Pioneer Cemetery, the Rim with stops at graves and historic locations, archeological sites such as Shoofly and Goat Camp, the Tonto Natural Bridge, the Tonto Fish Hatchery, area mines, the Rim Country Museum, and the Tonto Apache Reservation.

Karen Ammann, the district's coordinator for the gifted program, worked with the museum board to get the project going and set Thursdays aside for the one-day-a-week, nine-week program.

The students in the enrichment program have been participating in the program since January. They spent the first three weeks studying ancient people in the Payson area.

Now they're studying pioneer living. The family-owned Lone Pine Hotel was built in 1915, and many of the items showcased throughout the structure are from that period.

"The museum's approach was to expose them to an area of culture, go on a field trip, and write a follow-up report," Brown said. "The museum will make a video tape, after each section, of the students reading their reports.

"We're hoping to encourage them to do their own research."

After reading the students' initial reports, Museum Director Sharesse Von Strauss said the program's benefits are obvious.

"They know more than most adults of what it was like to live in 1,000 A.D. in what we now call Payson, Ariz.," she said.

The following is a student report written by fifth-grader Alec Barland to illustrate his understanding of what life was like for pioneers in Payson.

What it was like a long time ago

by Alec Barland

I think it would be hard to live back then because you'd have to wake up, grind your corn for breakfast and take a huge pot to a stream or a river and get water and carry it all the way back to your adobe or pit house.

The women would make clothes and help the men garden. Then they would go out and hunt for deer or elk or something to eat. Then they would skin it and use the skin for clothes or shoes. They would use the bones and horns for tools, weapons, etc.

If you wanted to make a pot you'd have to gather certain insides of a rock and mix it with water, then you would dry the water out and coil up the putty to form a pot, then set it on a platform over the fire and it would become a pot. All of this would take two to three weeks. Then when it was dinner time, they'd probably eat meat with beans or squash. Then at night time they would go to bed with deer skin covers or bear grass knitted quilts.

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