Living History Day annual tradition for Tahoe-Truckee students |

Living History Day annual tradition for Tahoe-Truckee students

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District fourth-graders are gearing up for Living History Day. This day is the culmination of their yearlong social studies curriculum based on California history, pioneers and the Gold Rush.

It is a day in the life of the pioneers and kids experience many of the traditions, food and activities authentic to the period.

Students are encouraged to dress in pioneer costume and they gather at a local park or beach where they participate in an all-day series of hand-on constructive learning activities common in the life of a pioneer.

Stations include hand-dipped candle making and tin smithing, in which students learn how to use a hammer and nail to create a unique design on the tin. There also is leather tooling, in which kids use scraps of leather and special tools to create designs and patterns in the leather.

Pioneer children didn’t have a toy store where they could buy toys, so they had to make their own. To represent this, students take turns making dolls that are made out of the dried husk of a corncob that are soaked in water.

When not crafting and making things, kids participate in pioneer-type games. They play with wooden tops, marbles and wooden stilts. They also liven things up with a little square dancing.

“This is a really exciting day for the students,” explained Tahoe Lake Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Dave Goggin. “It is also the biggest parent volunteer day of the year. We couldn’t make it happen without these great parents bringing food and helping with the activity stations.”

Parent volunteers provide period food for the kids, including several different kinds of chili, corn bread, honey, butter and fruit, and the students earn gold nuggets during the day, which they use to pay for their lunch.

Throughout the day, students journal about their experiences and observations after each station. They describe and critique each activity and are encouraged to reflect on the differences between life in the pioneer days and modern times.

“It is an interesting lesson for many kids to slow things down,” explained Goggin. “Pioneers didn’t buy everything at the store, they had to make and craft everything which takes time and patience. ”

Living History Days are set to take place at various locations throughout our communities and have been an annual event for years, and teachers are talking of expanding the day in the future to include more Tahoe-specific history including the boats, timber and Native American culture of our immediate area.

“Living History Day is one of the stand-out experiences of elementary school,” explains parent Alex Silverman. “It is great to see all the costumes, taste everyone’s chili, and experience fun stuff like candle making and tin smithing.”

Supplies for Living History Day have been funded through grants from the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation and school PTOs. In addition, school parents provide food, costumes and volunteer time.

Over the past 25 years, the Excellence in Education Foundation has provided more than $2.8 million in grants to teachers and programs within TTUSD that directly impact students and their learning experience. Visit to learn more.

Katja Dahl is an Excellence in Education board member.

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