Local History Comes Alive for Franktown Elementary

Local History Comes Alive for Franktown Elementary
Posted on 10/28/2019
Local History Comes Alive for Franktown Elementary

Did you take pioneers to Pikes Peak? What did you do after the flood? How did you get a time machine? These are the kinds of questions you get when second-grade students come face-to-face with history.

Fully-costumed, enactors Jim Weglarz, Mary O’Pry, Larry Schlupp, and Dennis Burdick of Historic Douglas County spoke about the people of the past who shaped the Franktown area.

“Characters help kids identify their local history,” says O’Pry. “It makes it come alive for them.”

Girl looking at pictureThe historic figures of J. Frank Gardener, the founder of Franktown; William Green Russell, the founder of the neighboring town of Russellville; Babette Engle, the original matriarch of Prairie Canyon Ranch; and the Wagon Master, a guide for hundreds of pioneers into Colorado spoke to the second-graders. Students were eager to explore a miniature covered wagon model and intently studied a framed picture of William Green Russell -- “a photo from my younger days,” Schlupp explained in-character.

Historic Douglas County has been coming to Franktown Elementary since 2013, when teachers Natalie Reeser and Nancy Platts invited the organization to add to their local history curriculum.

“I could teach the material, but I wouldn’t do it justice,” says Platts.

Platts also suspects that the novelty of the characters and interactiveness of the enactment leaves a greater impression on her students.

“They love little artifacts,” Platts says. “We went on a field trip to Highlands Ranch Days where they panned for gold. When they saw the little gold pan on the model wagon, that actually had meaning for them.”

The second-graders study of local history provides a solid foundation for their study of Native Americans in third grade and Colorado history in fourth grade.

“We feel the younger you start, the better education the kids get,” O’Pry says. “People can have a sense of community.”

“It’s the old Teddy Roosevelt adage,” Schlupp says. “If you do not know where you are from, you do not know where you are going.”

Franktown pictures

Historic Douglas County has enacted local characters at other Douglas County schools in Larkspur and Roxborough; though they are eager to perform for more students in more grades. The organization focuses on educational opportunities, research-grounded materials, and supporting various local historical organizations. They also connect teachers and other curious minds with free programs and recommended reading.

Teachers and administrators interested in bringing history to life in their classrooms can learn more on www.historicdouglascounty.org.
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