Old Fort Elementary fourth-grader Peyton Miller churns ice cream during Ohio Heritage School Day at Hedges-Boyer Park in Tiffin. The event kicks off Tiffin's Heritage Festival, which runs today and tomorrow.
TIFFIN - Seneca East fourth-grader Ryan Marvin knew exactly what he liked best about Ohio Heritage School Day at Hedges-Boyer Park yesterday.
"The ice cream," he said.
"We haven't gotten to the root beer yet," chimed in classmate Shelby Laughlin.
Clearly, mixing food with history is a sure way to get children interested in learning about the past.
"The Indians had popcorn before the pilgrims got here, but they didn't have any movies so they didn't know what to do with it," quipped David Kenska, of Elyria, Ohio, who was passing out bags of kettle corn to an enthusiastic crowd of 9-year-olds.
Some 540 fourth-graders from 14 schools across Seneca County converged at the city park southeast of downtown Tiffin to spend a day the way the early settlers did.
"They get to find out how much more fun it is to have Ohio History outside the classroom, and it nurtures an appreciation for how hard some of these people worked in the past," said Brenda Stultz, who along with her husband, Jim, were chair-men of the school day program.
The event has become a tradition for fourth graders on the opening day of Tiffin's Heritage Festival, which continues today and tomorrow with entertainment, food, and contests downtown.
Old Fort Elementary fourth-graders Shane Hitchcock, Logan Haubert, Josh Smith, Hunter Davis, and Austin Alice watch R.A. Burgin of Bucyrus, Ohio, start a fire with a piece of flint and steel.
The living history village will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow, while the Seneca County Museum on Clay Street will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. both days.
Jeff Davidson, whose son Hunter is a fourth grader at Old Fort Elementary, said he'd visited the living history village in past years during the festival, but had never come to the school day program. "This is a lot more interactive," Mr. Davidson said. "They've gotten to do a lot."
Youngsters could try Native American dances, watch blacksmith R.A. Burgin start a fire with a piece of flint and steel, play pioneer games, churn homemade ice cream, and chat with Gen. William Harvey Gibson and his wife, Martha.
Mrs. Gibson, portrayed by local resident Cindy Conger, said she and her husband, Randy, played the same roles when last year's third-graders visited historic sites in downtown Tiffin as part of Tour Tiffin in May.
"We were on the courthouse lawn by the statue of William Harvey Gibson so since the kids just came by in May, they remember who we are and what the general is about," she said.
The general, a trial lawyer turned politician who was known as a "silver-tongued orator," delivered a speech at the dedication of the Seneca County Courthouse in 1886.
Fourth-grade teachers said they enjoy taking their classes to the park for the day. "It is a great opportunity for the kids to have current curriculum in a hands-on, living fashion," said Joni Jordan, who teaches at Hopewell-Loudon Elementary. "The neat thing is even though we might not be studying pioneers and Indians right now, the kids remember this."
Susie Perry, the lone fourth-grade teacher in the tiny Bettsville Local School District, said it's an effective - and affordable - teaching tool. "We love it and it's feasible because our school district's broke," she said.
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