Last week we camped at Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. While we were there we found out about a program for people ages 13 and up called the “Not-So-Junior” Ranger program. After we attended three ranger led programs and had them sign our special paper, we turned it in for a choice of a patch or a magnet. I thought this was a great idea for visitors to the park and I wish every national park did this but I think it is unique to this national park. You can view my pictures on Flickr HERE.
The first program we attended was The Good Ol’ Days with Ranger Rhonda. She is actually an intern from the University of Oregon and was in charge of our program.
At first we were afraid that we were the only ones for the program but eventually there were about 30-40 people who showed up. Ranger Rhonda talked about the way of life in the cabin and how the porch was a major center of activity. Next we went to a shed where she talked about corn and the many uses it had. Finding a red ear of corn was a special find and enabled the finder to kiss the boy or girl that they liked. When we reached the barn, she talked about the community and how they helped each other to survive. The barn was an important building to the family because it housed their animals and their tools as well as animal fodder. Next we went to the sorghum mill and press where they made molasses. Molasses was used to sweeten their food. It took 10 gallons of sorghum juice to make 1 gallon of syrup. Last we returned to the cabin and she opened it up for us to walk inside. She talked about drying green beans and this made me want to give it a try. It was also interesting to see the quilt frame hung from the ceiling to get it out of the way when they weren’t using it.
Ranger Rhonda was enthusiastic about her subject and made visitors feel very welcome to be part of her group and even ask questions. If she couldn’t answer, she was honest about it. She was very patient with the children and included them in the discussion as much as possible.
I think this would be a great activity to do with students in the classroom. Students could invite elderly people to come talk about how their life as a child was different than it is for children today. They could speak in general or even show a specific activity they did as a child that many aren’t familiar with doing today. If a speaker couldn’t come to the classroom, maybe the students could interview someone they knew who grew up in a different era.
Have you done something like this in your classroom? Do you have any other suggestions on how to help students see how different life was in the good ol’ days? Please share.
Original photo by Pat Hensley