TMS students view history up close
History students at Tonganoxie Middle School have really been going places the last few years.
For five years, TMS has had a history club. And every year, students in the club have taken a trip to wherever they were researching during the school year.
TMS history teacher Kathy Harrell said former principal Steve Woolf started the idea of a history club in 2004.
“He liked the idea of having kids read a book and/or watch videos on a certain history topic and then be allowed to visit the place,” Harrell said.
For the first trip, Woolf took about eight youths to Santa Fe, N.M., following the route of the old Santa Fe Trail.
In 2005, a group of 10 went with Woolf, Harrell and Heather DeMaranville to northeast Colorado, the Rocky Mountains and Denver after studying James Mitchener’s book “Centennial” about the history of Colorado.
About 12 students headed north in 2006 to the Black Hills for a Custer-Commanche-themed trip with Woolf, Harrell and Debbie Holloway.
Students ventured even farther north in 2007 as Woolf, Holloway and Harrell traveled to Lake Superior in Minnesota and into Canada after studying the “voyeurs,” the boatmen who were some of the first trappers and traders who opened the Indian trade in the 1700s and early 1800s.
“We took a group of 15 and roughed it,” Harrell said. “We were literally in the wilderness on Lake Superior canoeing, portaging and camping.
“It was an experience I will never forget.”
In 2008, Harrell had students read the book “Rifles and Waite” about a teenager from Linn County who fights during the Civil War in the Oklahoma Cherokee Country.
Harrell said she added the element of youths needing to pass an accelerated reader test on the required book so as to ensure students had the historical background before taking the trip.
This year, there were 23 students and six teachers and sponsors.
In 2008, the group traveled to Fort Scott and then Tallequah, Okla., where it saw Fort Gibson and the Cherokee Heritage Center. From there, the group went to northwest Arkansas and saw the Prairie Grove Battlefield.
This year, the history club took on a black civil rights theme. Youths read “Fire From the Rock,” a historical fiction book about a girl who was one of the finalists to be considered to attend Central High in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957.
The group started in St. Louis, where the youths saw the former courthouse where the Missouri Supreme Court ruled on the case of slave Dred Scott. While there, the group checked out the Gateway Arch.
The next day, students and sponsors traveled to Memphis and saw the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot. They continued on the next day to Little Rock, Ark., to see the National Historic site at Central High School and the Arkansas Capitol Building. Harrell said the students and sponsors spent the final night of their trip in Branson, Mo., “just for fun” and then headed back to Tonganoxie.
Harrell said she was appreciative of Steve Woolf for starting the annual trip.
“It has been one of the most gratifying things I have ever done as a history teacher,” Harrell said.