HANCOCK COUNTY — Volunteers are needed to steer fourth-graders through a simulated covered-wagon journey from Pennsylvania to Indiana.
Since 2003, the Hancock County Public Library has sent volunteers into county classrooms to lead an educational program about what pioneers would bring on a covered wagon to Indiana. Several volunteers have retired from their duties, and more people with flexible schedules and an interest in educating young people are needed.
A miniature covered wagon and tiny items travelers would have had in their possession cause lots of conversation and confusion for youngsters, said volunteer coordinator Sue Berard. Many of the items are unrecognizable to fourth-graders but would have been important for survival in the pioneer days, according to a news release.
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The wagon — and the educational programming along with it — was born out of an outreach program by the Indiana State Museum.
The program at one time was discontinued, but the library purchased kits to be able to continue to offer the program to county fourth-graders who enjoyed the subject matter.
“The response from schools was so positive that the volunteers have stayed together,” Berard said.
The volunteers give a 15- to 20-minute talk about Indiana history, so students understand the time period, and then the prospective travelers examine the miniature furniture, farm implements and heirlooms in order to decide what must come along for the trip and what can be left behind.
The wagon ride from Pennsylvania to Indiana would have taken as long as eight weeks or possibly more if weather didn’t cooperate, Berard said — a far cry from the three-hour flight or a six-hour drive travelers choose from today.
The volunteers who run the program, many of whom are retired teachers, enjoy getting to interact with the students, Berard said.
Sometimes the kids will ask wacky questions — once, someone asked if there were still dinosaurs in the pioneer time period, she said.
Berard would like to find a minimum of three new volunteers to help out with the program.