Hurley students go West for the day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Maggie Blackwell
Hurley Elementary School was filled with cowboy hats and sunbonnets as students observed Western Day on Friday. The celebration, honoring the birthday of “Little House” author Laura Ingalls Wilder, involved every child in the school. Students observed a play, taste-tested cowboy beans and visited hands-on booths demonstrating arts from the Old West.
Students were encouraged to “dress Western” for the day. The school’s theme this year is “Saddle up For Success.”
The schoolwide event was the brainchild of Title 1 reading teacher Jill Duggan, who learned about this type of program at an N.C. Reading Workshop over the summer. A team of eight teachers worked for months to design the day’s activities.
All classes visited the library to watch Tish Hatley’s and Duggan’s class perform “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” The play featured Megan Rich as Ma, Joseph Young as Pa, Madison Boroughs as Laura, Bailey Herndon as Mary and Emma Cooler as Carrie. Thomas AubĂ© gave a brilliant performance as Jack the dog. The rest of the class took turns narrating so that everyone had a part.
Cast members seemed to have a thorough understanding of the challenges facing the Ingalls family.
Joseph Young was concerned about medical care: “They didn’t have technology like we do now. Women sometimes died when they had babies. They didn’t have medical care. And a dollar then was like $100 is now.”
Classes rotated through the cafeteria, where volunteers from the community demonstrated everything from quilting to fiddling.
– Art teacher Holly Shuler demonstrated calligraphy using a goose quill pen.
– Joe Barbee shared writing slates and other period educational materials with students.
– Salisbury Quilting Guild members showed students how quilts are made.
– Horizons shared period games, including marbles, jacks, and “Johnny Walkers.”
– Allen Amerson explained Western wear, including leather chaps and cowboy hats.
– Sue Knox involved students with candles, snuffers, irons and a butter churn.
– Hall House volunteers shared period costumes.
– Connie Foss demonstrated punching tin.
– Joann Hall played on the fiddle the same songs Pa Ingalls played, including “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
– Amy Hendrick from food services held a taste test so students could follow the process to make cowboy beans.
The Food Services Department packed bag lunches for all students with hot dogs and fruit.
The highlight of the day was a visit from Crescent Cloggers. The group includes dancers from ages 4 to 89.
Halls were lined with artwork celebrating the day. Three-dimensional covered wagons, popsicle-stick cabins, and quilt patterns attested to the learning opportunities leading up to the big day.
Duggan felt all the planning was worth the effort. “We all had a great time and were exhausted by 3,” she said.
“It was nice to see all of the kids load the buses with smiles on their faces and crooked cowboy hats on their heads.”