Archive for Thursday, October 24, 2002

Getting in touch with pioneer history

October 24, 2002

Starside Elementary School fourth-grader Octavio Villa learned a variety of lessons Tuesday from making a plaster diorama of an Oregon Trail campsite.

"We have to work together as a team," he said before getting to the specifics of the Oregon Trail experience. "They had to find a campsite that had water, fire wood and food for the animals."

The hands-on lesson was led by visually impaired student instructors who visited the school through Accessible Arts Inc. Starside Principal Paula Hill added another lesson she hoped the students would learn from the experience.

"I think it will help teach kids to look at those with disabilities in a new light," she said. "They may be visually impaired, but they have a lot to share. They do some wonderful projects with the kids."

Student instructor and Mill Valley High School senior Kari Hiltner, who started losing her sight at an early age, said she and her fellow student instructors also benefited from the program.

"It gives me more confidence," she said. "I used to think I couldn't talk with people.

"I love working with kids."

Eleanor Craig, executive assistant with the Kansas City Chapter of Accessible Arts, said the visit was collaboration between Accessible Arts and the Kansas State School for the Blind. Last summer, the visiting instructors gained first-hand experience about the Oregon Trail when they traveled from Independence, Mo., to Independence Rock in Wyoming, about half of the trail's distance, Craig said. The teens then made elaborate dioramas of campsites they visited during their trip.

The program continued when the teens visited fourth-graders at area schools, Craig said. Hiltner and Molly Merrick, a Shawnee Mission North senior, said they shared what they learned during their trip with the Starside students and helped them make copies of more elaborate Castle Rock, Neb., dioramas they made.

Hiltner said her confidence would get another boost when she completed her cross-country pioneer journey during the coming summer.

Hill's son Jonathon was one of the visiting instructors. Hill said he wanted to make the visit because he has a cousin enrolled at the school.

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