Community Lessons on Main Street
Last week, my son’s second grade teacher, Renee Daines, guided her class and a few parents from McPolin Elementary to historical Main Street. Thanks to her and the five-hour field trip, I not only discovered what a wonderful educator she is, but gained a new understanding of the word "community."
Our journey began as 24 students scampered off the city bus, while Mrs. Daines cautiously reminded everyone to walk with heads held high and eyes looking forward, not for safety, but to soak up the beauty around us. Making our way up the steps of the old elementary school building, now called City Hall, we delighted to discover we were standing next to one of the first apple trees planted by John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed!
We continued into the halls of justice, where we were introduced to Mayor Dana Williams. He made eye contact with every child, listened intently, and explained that each person, no matter what her age, has a voice in the community.
Next he asked, "What do you think I do?" Small hands swiftly sprang into the air, all with some impressive answers. One by one he patiently responded to their rapid-fire questions, yet most just wanted to know if he would play a song from his "Motherload Canyon Band!"
Next we explored the Park City Museum and the old miner’s prison. The director detailed a story of a seven-year-old boy who went to prison for stealing a soda pop bottle over 40 years ago. Based on the looks of the startled students, I think we can eliminate theft from their list of ambitions! After an authentic stage coach ride, complete with one large cowboy hat, we thanked the awesome staff for their time and enthusiasm.
The trip started to wind down as our stomachs gave way to hunger and the park picnic tables called our names. Paper bag lunches were gobbled up quickly and those who finished first wildly rolled down grassy hills. For the first time since relocating from Florida to Park City, I felt truly connected to this town and the "sense of place" that we, who live here, are so lucky to enjoy on a daily basis.
Listening to the laughter of the children and watching their excitement gave me a moment to reflect on the valuable lessons I had just relearned.
Community, being many things, is not just a place where schools are housed and laws are passed, but rather it is an intertwined effort of creative educators, passionate city employees and involved citizens. Park City, like the apple tree on Main Street, thrives because of its roots and support system. While it is true that history shapes a community, it is the people within that ensure its future.
Angie Maizlish is a freelance writer and owner of First Impressions, a communication enhancement company for professionals, students and businesses (www.wordsimpress.com). She lives in Park City with her husband and two school-age children.
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