Bordewich-Bray learns hands-on history

To the steady beat of the pounding drum, James Painter helped his classmates understand a piece of American Indian culture Wednesday.

"I love to dance," he said. "I'm glad to be who I am. I like to show people who I am and my heritage."

The 12-year-old fifth-grader was manning one of about 20 stations that brought Nevada's history to life at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School's annual Nevada Day Celebration.

"Teaching state history is one of our state standards," said vice principal Pat Beckwith. "This is a great way for kids to have hands-on understanding, instead of just reading it out of a book. Preserving and passing on the history of Nevada and the tradition of this state is very important for a school to do."

Retired teacher Katie Bullock, who moved to Carson City from Hong Kong in 1972, read a story to the students about two Chinese men who were among the thousands who migrated to the United States in the 1800s to work on the railroad.

"It was in the Sierra Nevada that most of the really dangerous and hard labor was done," she explained, telling how the Chinese were lowered in baskets to set dynamite to level mountainsides. Many died. "It would not have been built as quickly if it weren't for the Chinese."

It was a piece of Nevada's history many students weren't aware of.

"I think it was interesting," said Taya Rains, 9. "I hadn't heard about it before; it was the first time."

Reed Simmons told the students about rodeo and gave them a demonstration by roping a dummy steer.

Andres Castro, 9, saw a connection to his own culture.

"They do that in Mexico," he said. "My grandpa throws the rope and catches the cow."

Stations, spread inside and outside the school, included representations from Nevada's history such as Basque culture, campfire songs, a horse and wagon, a farrier, a Pony Express rider and a spinning-wheel demonstration.

The best station in 9-year-old Zach Leonard's estimation was where Reno Bell taught students to pan for gold. Then he let them each find their own nuggets.

"This is my favorite part because we get to dig for gold and keep it," he said.

Gene Brown organized the first Nevada Day Celebration four years ago as a half-day event with the younger grades. It has since grown to a schoolwide activity taking up the entire day.

"We've worked out some of the kinks, and we've got a lot of really wonderful volunteers," she said. "This year is so far our best."

Although some stations had to be moved inside and others relocated between buildings to block gusting winds, students and staff were undaunted by the weather.

"We toughed it out like true Nevadans," Beckwith said. "We persevered."


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