Saturday, January 19, 2002

Students experience pioneer life

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — Nine-year-old Ryan Kinsey carefully shook the pan of murky water, looking through the pebbles for gold slivers as the water splashed out.

[photo] First-graders Tyler Schlensker (left) and Manuel Aleman learn how to pan for gold during Pioneer Living Experience at Hopewell Elementary School in West Chester.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        “It's hard,” the Hopewell Elementary School third-grader said after throwing the contents of the pan back into the tub. “It's (gold) too small. I really wanted to find something.”

        Panning for gold was just one of 10 hands-on activities from pioneer days that students at Hopewell participated in Thursday and Friday as a portion of the gymnasium was turned into a pioneer camp. Children could mine for gold, card — and then spin — wool, shave each other using homemade soap for shaving cream, grind wheat into flour or play with hand-made tops.

        “It's fun because it's not normal,” said 8-year-old Chelsea Rice, after using a washboard to do laundry.

        Third-grade teacher Anna Flaig said the stations set up in the gymnasium are a good introduction to Butler County history that her students will begin studying later this month. The activities also tie into material covered on Ohio's fourth-grade proficiency test.

        The camp was set up by Tyler Rogers with Pioneer Living, a Washington state-based firm that annually brings its “museum on wheels” to about 800 schools across the country, serving about 400,000 children. The school's Parent Teacher Organization funded the firm's two-day visit so that all children in the school could go through the camp.

        “I explain about pioneers and then let them do hands-on things. When children go to a museum they like to look, but they really want to touch and feel. They can do that here,” Mr. Rogers said.

        Amy Schleitweiler didn't like having old-fashioned shaving cream — soap — put on her face. And she's glad that razors — not knives — are used in the 21st century.

        “That shaving thing smells awful,” she said. “I do not like that. It felt weird — really weird.”

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