OAKHURST — Online and in person, parents and community members have been talking about a terrific field trip recently taken by about 75 lucky students from Oakhurst Elementary School (OES) to nearby Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park.
The hours-long excursion was a celebration of their own pioneer day, as three 5th grade classes descended on the conveniently located landmark, led by teachers Kirstin Korte, Michelle Burton, and Robin Ward.
Students are in the midst of an explorer unit that builds into early pioneer days, as their intrepid instructors expand on what these young people learned about California history, just last year, in fourth grade. The much-appreciated outing flows perfectly into students’ history unit, as they learn about events from Early Exploration to the Civil War.
“It is really important to bring all areas of academics to life,” Mrs. Ward says. “Kids need to see and touch the world around them, much more so now than ever!”
Cell phones, Fitbits and the like were banned, though later on were briefly sanctioned in order to preserve the moment. That’s a version of Fresno Flats’ motto, preserving the past for the future. As teachers look for ways to impart the nuances of history, even wardrobe becomes an integral part of the immersion, and everyone came dressed to play their parts.
“We have many costumes that have been donated through the years in case anyone needs them,” Ward explains. “Our local thrift stores are so reasonably priced, most families spent just $5-10 on them. This year we opened up the Hootin’ Hollerin’ Barn Dance to all families which helped motivate families to dress.”
Parents say they had a blast, and the teachers and parent volunteers were great, kids had fun. They also mentioned what a gem the park is to the community.
Traditionally over the last several years, Mrs. Burton has personally provided for the students trip to Pioneer Village in Yosemite.
This year, a close relative made it possible for the classes to enjoy their time at Fresno Flats, a local treasure known for its eclectic and authentic 19th-century western collection of buildings, artifacts, and ephemera, not to mention the incredible cast of docents and others who enable these kind of events.
Fresno Flats is part of the Sierra Historic Sites Association, and while it’s highly affordable, it’s not free, and 75 students has a financial impact. In this case, Mrs. Burton’s own uncle gave the students “a beautiful gift which paid for most of the events of the day so all of our kids could touch history.”
“We all taught our units and this was an incredible way to wrap it up. We really appreciate all our parents and volunteers that made it all so wonderful! Fresno Flats docents also took all our kids on a guided tour — it was truly an awesome day.”
Photos courtesy Robin Ward