Last week a new curriculum for fourth-grade social studies was delivered by the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation to Payson Unified School District superintendent Sue Myers and Frontier Elementary School principal Gail Gorry.
Frontier Elementary School fourth graders will test the new study materials, which cover Zane Grey and the lifestyles of the characters in his novels.
"You're the first students in Arizona to go through the Zane Grey program. We're going to have success with this program and eventually it's going to be statewide," Dick Wolfe, president of ZGCF said. He was dressed as the Sheriff from the novel "The Drift Fence" when he spoke to the students from the porch of the freshly recreated Zane Grey Cabin in Payson.
He introduced other characters from Grey's novels:
From the "Man of the Forest" novel that was set in the Rim Country were Jim Wilson, the bad guy who turns good; the Mountain Man and Nell, the girl the mountain man saves. From the most popular book that Grey ever wrote, "The Riders of the Purple Sage," was Lassiter.
"Zane Grey had 250 million books published," Wolfe said. "(And) 133 movies were made from his stories, so he's really the father of the Western story, and you're going to learn a lot about him. There's a reason why so many of his books are sold, because they were very exciting stories about cowboys and the West."
Local artist Donn Morris said he uses "lines and shapes and colors and water colors" as tools in his artwork to show what he sees; Grey used words to "beautifully describe all the things that he saw" and heard and smelled.
A selection of Grey's descriptive writing, for teachers to read aloud, such as: "Commotion and stamping of feet and merry voices rose from the front of the old schoolhouse," and "The brook made wide turns and soon received the flow of a branch creek, after which it slowed up in deep, dark pools here and there under the big pines," is included in the curriculum.
There are sections defining cowboys and the different types of saddles they used and the boots and spurs they wore. Students will learn about how horse and cattle brands were composed. Knot tying and horse measurement, literally by "hand," and making Cowboy "Tin Can" Stew are a few of the activities that round out the course.
Zane Grey's Cabin and the Rim Country Museum are open to field trips to further enhance the studies. The curriculum is still a work in progress. It will be tested over the rest of this school year, and then presented to other Arizona schools.
"I haven't really had the chance to look at the curriculum yet," said social studies teacher Darlene Alvarez, "but I am excited about it."
Over the years Alvarez has been teaching social studies, she has found that students related to historical characters, so she feels Zane Grey should fit right in.
Alvarez said she plans to add him when her students begin the pioneer chapter of their Arizona social studies text in January.
In the meantime, she had her students write down everything they remembered from their recent field trip through the museum and cabin. She said most students noticed the desk and the typewriter Grey used and the saddles in the museum. When asked what was different from the cabin as compared to their own homes, they seemed most amazed by the wood-burning stove in the kitchen and the fact that the cabin was one room.
Because this is one of the areas where Zane Grey lived, she said she thinks the new curriculum will be more relevant to rural students than city children.
The Zane Grey curriculum covers story locations and the reason Grey chose particular geographic regions.
The location of nearly half of his Westerns was in the Colorado Plateau.
There are 25 Grey novels that are set in Arizona, according to a list compiled by Dr. Kevin S. Blake. Fourteen of those had a setting in the area of the Mogollon Rim that forms the plateau's southern edge.
Geography is the foundation of the social studies class taught by Alvarez. She soon moves on from the desert, plateau and mountain regions to tell her fourth graders about the Indians who first lived in those regions. The textbook takes students from prehistoric times through the Spanish missionaries and explorers, cattle ranchers and the people who mined copper, to the people living in the state today.
More Arizona residents and college students may be learning about Zane Grey in the near future. The current draft of the Zane Grey curriculum will soon be on its way to Arizona State University.
It is Wolfe's understanding that ASU would like to see the Zane Grey curriculum sponsored statewide, and they would like to be the ones to sponsor it.
Wolfe expressed delight in being approached by ASU and said, "There are (Zane Grey) books written for all ages, so that's who we're aiming for."
Arizona Explorers Boogaloo!
In addition to the textbook, and a field trip to the Arizona Science Center, Alvarez uses songs to reinforce what students learn. Last year she and three other teachers wrote the song "Arizona Explorers Boogaloo!" The students stand in place, do a little dance and wave their hands when they say "boogaloo."
I'm an explorer of Arizona and I'm here to say
I'm the reason Arizona is what it is today
Expeditions, presidio and missions spanned
As evidence of explorers on Arizona land
DiNiza, DiVaca, Esteban too
Coronado, Spaniards, Boogaloo!
I'm an explorer of Arizona and you should know
I explored the Southwest some 500 years ago.
It all began with Coronado in 1540
He was looking for rumored seven cities of gold
Grand Canyon, Gila River, Casa Grande too
Tucson, Tubac, Boogaloo!
I'm an explorer of Arizona, a Spanish missionary
Keno promoted agriculture, positive relationships, a true visionary
Contributed to the culture, re-establishing peace
A farmer growing wheat
San Xavier, Guevavi, Tumacacori too
Missions in Arizona, Boogaloo!
I'm an explorer of Arizona and try as I might
The Indians Tribes of Arizona, defending their land did fight
Many decided to work together, sharing ideas and land
Peaceful solutions and willingness today do stand
Apache, Pima, Hopi too, Papago cultures