Rendezvous for fourth graders

Sep 29, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Even in today's modern, homogenized, standardized climate in elementary school education, one requirement remains strong and clear: Wyoming kids must learn about the state's history in their fourth-grade years.

A particularly fun part of meeting that requirement was taking place Friday at the 1838 Rendezvous grounds of the southeast edge of Riverton.

Every fourth-grader in the public schools was there, along with their teachers and a host of volunteer historians, artisans and demonstrators. It's always quite a day.

The Wind River Valley played an interesting part of the great westward expansion of the 19th century that helped settle Wyoming and other states in the region. It's important to learn and remember that history.

As will be showcased in a front-page photo spread in our Sunday edition, the fourth-graders learned about frontier-era cooking, clothing, shelter, trapping, weaponry, maps, local history and more.

Names and dates and facts relevant to the larger historical picture can be handled in classroom settings, but there's no substitute for the outdoor, hands-on activities that occupy the kids at Fourth-Grade Rendezvous.

A larger portion of each public school student's and teacher's time in the classroom is consumed by standardized testing, the preparation for it, and the response to it. Clearly, the educational powers that be at the state and federal levels have determined that this type of teaching and learning is important. It's become a fact of life, and it will remain so.

But it also tends to dilute the sense of individuality that our local schools and their communities offer to the educational process. So, when the kids see the drummers, dancers, archers, mountain men, trappers and the other cultural figures who serve as adjunct instructors for a day at the Fourth-Grade Rendezvous, they all are participating in what makes our school our school, and what makes us different from other places with other schools and other students, where, supposedly, important facets of their local history are taught.

Standardized education has its place, its role, and its unquestioned value. So, too, does our local history, and our ability to import it to the new generation.

Our 9- and 10-year-olds are learning at least a portion of what it means to be in Wyoming citizen. Understanding how we got here is a crucial part of figuring out where we will go next.

One day we will be the ancestors under study. Our possessions will be the artifacts being examined by new generations of school children. Our stories will fill their brains as the flow of history continues, rather like the conjoining channels of the Wind River as it rolls past the historic old spot.

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