GREENFIELD — Fifth-graders at Greenfield Intermediate School took a step back in time recently during a pioneer-themed event aimed at bringing history to life.
Fifth-grade teacher Crystal Corwin-Howard and parent Carrie McIntire spearheaded the inaugural pioneer day event, which led the eight classes of fifth-graders through stations of 1800s activities like making butter, weaving, dipping candles, square dancing and learning like prairie students in a one-room schoolhouse.
Corwin-Howard decided to organize the end-of-semester event for her fifth-grade classes because she enjoyed a similar event when she was in elementary school.
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Students prepared for weeks for the event, making costumes and supplies at school and at home so they would look the part.
Before the day, students either sewed simple white caps or made “coonskin” caps from cut up file folders, cotton balls and spray paint.
It became a family affair, with more than 20 parents showing up to help out with the pioneer-themed event.
Other parents donated everything from heavy cream for making butter to gently-used curtains for old-timey skirts.
Mary Haberman, who creates costumes for choirs at Greenfield-Central High School, donated 50 outfits to the fifth-grade class for their pioneer day, Corwin-Howard said.
“We were working on a zero-dollar school budget,” she said. “We’ve had lots of parent help.”
Some contemporary themes sneaked into the event. Katie Creamer’s class learned to do-si-do to traditional country music, but once they had the dance down, they tried their moves out to “Ice, Ice, Baby,” by Vanilla Ice.
“We’re learning about the prairie in the funnest possible way,” said student Hannah Williams.
Students partaking in the one-room schoolhouse portion of the day took spelling and arithmetic tests on makeshift slates — cardboard rectangles coated with chalkboard paint by parent volunteers.
The parent volunteers persevered through a number of predicaments presented by the primitive pastimes.
Wendy Frehse volunteered to help students dip candles, but the mild temperatures kept the tin cans of candle wax from melting completely on their electric griddle. Once someone ran and microwaved the candle wax, it stayed hot enough for students to try their hand at candle-making, Frehse said.
Corwin-Howard said he hopes to make the pioneer day an annual event for fifth-grade students.