Trailside students celebrate the history of Utah
Trailside Elementary School fourth graders filed into the library dressed in flannel button-downs, Native American headdresses, bonnets and cowboy hats as "mountain man" Scott Sorenson played a wooden, stringed instrument to welcome them.
Fourth-grade teacher Kim Yelderman, dressed in fringed, lace-up boots and a leather headband, said the traditional "rendezvous" would take place after the children learned about the history of "mountain men" in Utah from Sorenson.
Yelderman has been a teacher at Trailside for nine years, and she said this event is always the finale for the studies the fourth-grade students covered for the past two months with their teachers Yelderman, Becky Brady, Debbie Moser and Jacquie Manning about the history of Utah.
"They learned about the five Native American tribes in Utah and about their arts, culture and how they survived, and we moved on to trappers, traders and explorers, a little bit about Father Escalante and the migration of other explorers into Utah," Yelderman said.
In preparation for the day, she said, they worked on crafts, read Native American legends, dressed up as anyone who would attend a rendezvous, the traditional get-togethers between Native Americans and trappers and traders.
The students were scheduled to participate in a rendezvous after lunch to trade homemade items in order to learn and understand the bartering system and celebrate afterwards with some square dancing.
Sorenson kept the students engaged in the library with tall tales, stories he said "mountain men" love to tell. He told students about his life in a cabin with his wife and children in Canada through the explanation of different hides, skins and furs he brought to the school.
He had a black bear hide after catching it in his garden, a raccoon hide after finding it in his chicken coop and an elk hide after using a reed to make an elk call.
"Black bears are dangerous, because they can’t see very well," Sorenson said. "This particular black bear was digging up carrots and roots in my garden as my five-year-old sat in the yard throwing sticks at it, so I had to get rid of it before it came back and hurt somebody."
Among the other hides were an Arctic fox, a badger, a skunk and an otter, all of which the students got to touch as they left the library.
There was a fake campfire made out of a lamp and red tissue paper in the middle of Yelderman’s room, and the desks were covered with black satchels the students made to carry their items for trading.
Dioramas with constructions of Native American dwellings surrounded the computer lab and filled the glass display case next to it. Yelderman said they were all handmade by the students.
The rendezvous this year, she said, was dedicated to the memory of Linda Crowther, the fourth-grade music teacher at Trailside who passed away a little over a month ago.
"The rendezvous was her creation, and she taught the students campfire songs and other traditional music as part of their history lesson," Yelderman said. "So this year, it’s a tribute to her."
Sorenson has been coming to Park City to talk to students before Yelderman even worked at Trailside and first met Crowther at Parley’s Park Elementary School. He said she then became family when her son, Todd, married his niece, Annie.
"I remember talking to [Linda] one day about music, and I told her, ‘I know all these old tunes, but I’d like to learn something that’s maybe a little more classy,’" Sorenson said. "Now I’m not much of a musician, but she taught me this piece of Beethoven."
Sorenson played an excerpt of Ode to Joy as the students watched and listened. He then concluded his presentation by answering questions and letting students touch the different furs and hides he brought on their way back to class.
"This event will lead the way for the next unit the students will learn about, such as miners and the different ethnic groups that have migrated into Utah," Yelderman said. "[Sorenson]’s ‘mountain man’ presentation always helps tie in geography and science, and the kids just have so much fun with the rendezvous."
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