Kudos & Kindness
On May 25 and 26 my fourth-grade class participated in the Environmental Living Program at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. This is an authentic learning experience where students spend a day living and working the way California pioneers did in the 1840s.
This experience includes researching and writing a five-paragraph biographical essay on a historical character who actually visited the fort in the 1840s. Students prepare a character speech to be given to the many visitors, including other fourth-graders, at the fort that day. Students and parents were also responsible for wearing period costumes and making their own journal paper and sashes.
Our pioneers rode on a covered wagon to the fort. Once there, they roped a “steer” with a vaquero, made candles and corn-husk dolls, blacksmithed, created a newspaper headline, made fire with a flint and striker, hammered together and branded a wooden stool/tool box, and made rope. They also made their own dinner, which included beef, chicken stew, beans, tortillas and apple crisp. They baked bread, cinnamon rolls and cookies in a beehive oven. They churned butter, made baskets and spun and wove wool to make a class wall hanging.
They witnessed the shooting of the Fremont cannon, while learning more about the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846. They watched and learned how a musket is fired. They earned and spent Sutter bucks at the trade store to buy period items. Finally, they listened to an Indian storyteller, learned about period music, square danced, did guard duty, and ended the trip the next day with a riverboat ride up and down the Sacramento River.
All this would not have been possible without the help of parents. I would like to give thanks to the following people who made this an unforgettable learning event. First and foremost, thanks to all the parents in our class who sacrificed their time and energy to get us to the fort; Tahoe Valley PTA, who donated $560; Debra Yokotake who spent countless hours baking and selling at our weekly bake sales; Susie, Emilie and Riane Richards who trekked all the way from Idaho, snagging Carrisa Uppendahl, Kristie Hobbes and Kailey Farrell on the way; Jillian, Melissa and Tarma Tribble; and Julie Delacour and Kasie McGwire.
I’d also like to thank Richard and Bonnie DeBraga, Tom Tazelaar, Karen Tinlin and Ida Guerrero. Without all of you there would be no Sutter’s Fort experience. Thank you all for allowing our students the opportunity to understand and appreciate California history during the 1840s.
Gene MatteucciFourth-grade teacher
Tahoe Valley Elementary School