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Students create traveling trunks for elementary history study

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Jonathon Marcotte and Abby Beamer are researching and collecting historic materials for two


   If you were an elementary school student, would you rather hear a lecture from your teacher on the Hill-Harriman railroad feud, or learn from a history trunk chock-full of pictures, books, activities and real railroad spikes you could hold and examine?
   Most kids learn more from activities with hands-on experiences where they can touch and see objects, read books on the topic, play related games, or dress up and imagine they are historic figures for the day.
   Two historic "Traveling Trunks" are being created for this purpose through the sponsorship of the Jefferson County Historical Society and work of Jefferson County Middle School eighth graders Jonathon Marcotte and Abby Beamer, who are National History Day participants. The facilitator for the student projects is Courtney Lupton-Turner, local National History Day coordinator.
   Marcotte, 14, will collect materials for a trunk on the Hill vs. Harriman railroad war, in which they raced to be the first to build tracks up the Deschutes River Canyon into Central Oregon.
   He will have access to all the historical society's materials and can Xerox copies of documents to include in the trunk, and some museum artifacts.
   Community members with early-day railroad-related items they would like to donate to the project may contact Marcotte at JCMS at 475-7253.
   Besides searching for objects, Marcotte will also be writing suggested instructional materials for teachers, creating a timeline of events, developing a book list for elementary kids, and suggesting learning activities.
   "Kids could create their own display project, or maybe go on a field trip," Lupton said as examples of activities.
   Beamer's traveling trunk will be on frontier medicine east of the Cascades.
   "It will have lots of artifacts like old medicine bottles and lots of books," said 13-year-old Beamer, noting she was doing research by reading the diary of Dr. Coe, the first doctor in Central Oregon.
   "She has a great family connection (her father is Dr. Bud Beamer) and will also have information on the development of local medicine, from the infirmary to the Indian Health Clinic to the hospital," Lupton said. Citizens with artifacts may also contact Beamer at the middle school.
   Both trunks will be geared toward students in third through fifth grades, and will be given to the historical society when they are completed. They will then be available for Jefferson County teachers to check out for use in their classrooms.
   Henderson said the project was made possible through a $5,000 award from the Braeman Trust.
   "The historical society decided to use it for educational purposes and we're starting with the traveling trunks," Henderson said.
   She said the idea was originally sparked by a teacher's request.
   "Jennifer Hatfield asked the museum if we had any artifacts she could take to Westside Elementary when her dad Herschel Read was going to talk to students about growing up in the homesteading years. I took some iron kettles and other things for him to use during his story, and we thought -- this is a good idea," Henderson related.
   In the future, the historical society and students plan to develop traveling trunks on homesteading, regional Native Americans, irrigation and farming, and the high desert.