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Wagon Ho Teaches Local Kids About Pioneer Life
When Cal and Marla Clevenger bought an old wagon at a Nampa car lot, they never considered that it would evolve into Wagon Ho, an effective teaching tool about the early days of the West.
What would become 25 years of commitment to the children of Idaho started out as a restoration project to unite four generations of the Clevenger family. Instead, the antique became a way for the former fireman and his wife to bring history to life.
In the spring, the Clevengers (“Mr. and Mrs. C” to kid participants) host around 40 school programs, teaching kids in the state how the pioneers survived the frontier 150 to 200 years ago. They talk about Lewis and Clark’s famous journey along the Oregon Trail (“It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Sacagawea.”) and about what they ate while building the railroad (“Hardtack was a type of bread or cracker that would last a long time in the workers’ bags. It would soften in their mouths.”).
Kids get hands on experience sawing logs, washing clothes on a washboard, priming a pump for water, lighting candles, lassoing, branding, making toys, using pioneer tools, and Dutch oven cooking.
The event takes an entire school day. The students also learn to keep small journals about their experience that they use later to write letters to the Clevengers. Reading those letters and cards are Mr. and Mrs. C’s favorite part of the whole experience.
Rain or shine, when this couple makes a promise to be there they follow through. Inclement weather only adds to the lesson, minus any rain tarps the school provides, of course. The first lesson the kids learn from Mr. C is that they are to always treat Mrs. C with the utmost respect. Anyone who doesn’t just might have to do 25 pushups or a lot more jumping jacks.
From the start of the day to the very end, Wagons Ho is a lesson not only in history, but in what it takes to be a team in order to survive. It is emphasized in every activity. The students soak it up. As the day progresses, there is a marked difference in behavior. The once fidgety crowd becomes more and more focused. For a generation of kids that are more likely to understand how to code their own video game, Wagons Ho! Has become an important part in finding an interest in history and the outdoors.
In her previous career as an organizing consultant to Fortune 500 companies, Janet Jameyson took the stress out of her clients' lives. Her goal is to bring that same organized professionalism and high....
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