Photos by Maya Pottiger
On the last day before Spring Break, Solley Elementary fifth-graders traveled back to colonial times during the school's annual Pioneer Day.
During Pioneer Day, students complete a handful of challenges that faced those traveling by wagon in the colonial days.
"During the old curriculum, this was something they learned in social studies," said fifth-grade teacher Kim Flanagan. "It's not in the curriculum anymore, but it's built up so much that we still want to do it for the experience."
Now, the colonial lessons are fit into the reading curriculum.
Pioneer Day allows students to pretend they are traveling 2,000 miles with their wagons, families and fellow travelers.
The first challenge is assembling the wagon. Students are given all of the materials, and they must assemble the wagons themselves. They are given journals that have directions in them, and they must complete the wagon to move on.
Next, the Wagon Train goes down the trail until it comes to Bessie the Cow. Students circle their wagons around the cow, and then they are given heavy cream to turn into butter. Once they make the butter, students eat it with crackers.
The next stop is teepees, where students trade beads with other families and make bracelets. After that, students learn about birch bark and drink birch beer. Then, they stop to write in their journals using quills and ink.
To show the real hardships early settlers experienced, students face broken down wagons, dead animal carcuses and injuries. They are given fabric to make slings and wrap their wounds.
When they arrive at the forest, students are given land grants. They must then cut down trees and build log cabins that are four layers high. Finally, the last stop is the river where students pan for gold.
"It's really cool watching them working as a team," Flanagan said. "Some argue the whole time and don't get a lot accomplished, and some work really well."
A handful of parent volunteers help with the day, arriving early to set everything up and sticking around to assist in the different challenges.