South Park visits Keystone

Leslie Silverman
South Park Elementary was taken back in time as it visited the Keystone Museum and its newly revamped “Let’s Bring History to Life” program. 
Third grade students spent the morning of May 15 learning about what life was like at the turn of the 20th century. The program was led by two Keystone Area Historical Society board members, Sarah Walker and Andrew Jones.
Walker guided the students through a classroom experience, which began with the ringing of the museum school bell.
We are gonna transfer back in time. They didn't have cell phones, they didn’t have alarms, they had bells,” Walker said.
Walker asked students what it meant to the town when the school bell rang, with children responding that school was either starting or ending for the day.
Once inside the classroom girls were asked to put on petticoats while boys donned hats and trousers. Walker then explained the meaning behind various phrases or words used in the early 1900s.
“What does Sunday best mean?” Walker asked students who had various answers to give. Sometimes Walker had to provide context to harder words. “Pa and ma would not  be happy to find Mary behind the apple tree with her beau.”
She also did simple arithmetic exercises with the students. 
“If  pa had nine jersey cows and bought six holstein cows how many cows would he have in all?” she asked a standing student. 
Walker interacted with each of the 18 students in the room, trying to prompt them for correct answers to various questions. After the classroom portion of the experience children were led into another museum room, this one staged as a home. Walker asked students how settlers got to Keystone.
“They used wagons,” said Charlotte Harford. “They’d put horses in front. They had to walk all the way here. We actually learned about this in school.”
Walker explained why settlers came to the Plains and how items like paintings or family portraits might come with them. She then turned her attention to the rope bed in the room. 
“Ma would beat the mattress to get rid of critters living in the bed,” she said.
She asked students why candles would be dangerous to use and explained how people’s lives were tied to the rising and setting of the sun. Then she picked up a bucket, which she said was often used as a toilet when it was too cold or snowy outside before explaining the phrase “not having a pot to pee in.”
South Park Elementary teacher Kateyn Bradford  says her students don’t get much exposure to history lessons in elementary school and she was surprised that Harford  recalled the Oregon Trail passages she  had read  in class last fall. The experience as a whole is “a great supplement to what I teach,” Bradford said.
Bradford was encouraged to come to the museum by her husband, who teaches fourth grade in Piedmont Valley. He has taken his class to the museum previous years when the program was run by Bonita Ley and called the Living History Program.
“I think it’s great,” Bradford said, wondering if her students were “shocked at how the expectations were back then.”
Her students however seemed quite comfortable especially when touring the bottom of the museum.
There Jones showed students a bathtub that President Taft got stuck in. 
“How do you get a naked bubbly president out of the bathtub,” he asked students, who giggled. 
Jones pointed out the hot and cold faucet which  would have been “very fancy” in South Dakota in the 1900s. 
By far the most memorable story Jones told was of a little boy named Charlie Brophy, who went to school in Keystone and lived up Old Hill City Road.
“He walked to school and back every day even in the winter,” Jones said. “On Oct. 23 1903, Charlie was in this very building attending a birthday party. He was walking home when a neighbor asked if he wanted a ride.” 
Jones said somehow Charlie got caught in the spokes of the wheels. 
“He died. He was only 5 years old,” Jones said. 
Jones showed the actual clothes Charlie was wearing. He then asked, “who believes in ghosts?”
As students responded and asked each other Jones continued, “Some people say if you’re in this building on your own you can hear a little kid running around upstairs.”
That story was the favorite part of the day for 10-year-old Eugene Bald Eagle. It was his first trip to the museum and  thought it was a good experience. However he would not want to attend school there, preferring his own South Park Elementary because it “looks cooler.”
Bentley Rivers, 9, also enjoyed the story about Charlie the most. It was also  his first time in the museum and would recommend  it to other children his age. As for where he would prefer to go to school. 
“It’s a hard decision,” he said with a lot of contemplation. “But I would choose the Keystone School because it’s more challenging and harder to do things.”
Approximately 600 students from South Dakota and Wyoming will go through the “Let’s Bring History to Life” program at the Keystone Museum during the month of May.

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