Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Students dig into Tonganoxie’s stories

October 12, 2005

Tonganoxie third-graders know more about their community than they used to.

Students in the classes of Chris Baska and Gail Kiefer spent part of Thursday afternoon visiting Tonganoxie businesses.

The walking field trip, a sort of community-research scavenger hunt, came with good weather.

"It wasn't raining, but it was a little cool," Baska said.

From the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop and Food Bank near the school, to the Tonganoxie fire station, about a half-mile away, students made pre-arranged visits. At each stop, they asked assigned questions and wrote down their answers.

For instance, at Lenahan's Hardware on Fourth Street, students asked the 82-year-old owner, John Lenahan, about the history of his building.

And they learned that from about 1900 until 1920 it was a clothing store. After that, it was the Royal Theatre, where as a teen, Lenahan worked as projectionist. And in the mid-1950s it became a hardware store. It was known as Oakson's Hardware until about 35 years ago when John Lenahan and his late wife, Jean, bought the business.

In Lenahan's, children took the time to look at the antiques displayed among the hardware items, and at the collection of historical photos Lenahan keeps in the front of his store.

The field trip, the first of this kind taken by the third-graders, came about when Baska and Kiefer took a summer course taught by a woman who developed a scavenger hunt for the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.

"We just decided we would do one in Tonganoxie," Baska said.

So they arranged for their total of 47 students to walk to town in small groups, supervised by parent or grandparent volunteers.

The field trip itself lasted about an hour and a half, culminating with a visit to Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse where the children asked the last of their questions and were treated to a soft drink.

Baska said she appreciated businesses' involvement. Because the thrift shop closes at noon, which was before the field trip began, Sarah Kettler volunteered to open the charity to show students around.

"A lot of the kids didn't know about the thrift store," said Baska.

And at the police station, Baska said, children asked what the police department's first vehicle had been.

"It was a cow," Baska said, chuckling. "There is a picture of a cow hanging up in the police station. And they learned that $6 a month is what the policemen were paid, that came out to about 20 cents a day."

And, she said, the students found the visit to Tonganoxie's city hall to be a real treat.

"The people at city hall gave everybody a candy bar," Baska said.

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