Students learn about the earlier days of transportation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SPENCER — Seniors in Reid Walters’ Native American Studies class at East Rowan High School are applying what they’ve learned in the classroom.
“This stuff is something you don’t really understand until you come and check it out,” Andy Austin said.
The group of 26 traveled to the North Carolina Transportation Museum on Wednesday, where they had the opportunity to see museum educator Brian Moffitt using flames to hollow out a tree to create a canoe.
“It was pretty neat to see how they would build a canoe because it’s so different from how we would build one today,” Madison Puckett said.
Puckett learned that Native Americans could use the burning method to complete a canoe in just three months.
“I think it’s interesting that instead of just chopping down a tree, they would actually build a fire around it and burn it down,” she said.
Bryn Lafevers said he was in awe of the innovation the Native Americans used.
“It was kind of insane to think the only way they used get around on was their feet until they decided to chop down a tree, dig it out with fire and put it in the water to see if it would float,” he said.
Colby Snider said he was fascinated about it after seeing Moffitt’s demonstration.
“Who would have thought you could burn something out like that and use nature as a tool to make something that changed the way of life for those people,” he said.
This is the second time Walters has taken his class to the museum.
“The canoe Brian Moffitt is working on actually fits into the next segment I teach these students, the Mississippian culture,” he said. “This was the culture that encompassed our local tribes collectively know as the Pee Dee and Catawba.”
Walters said his class also focuses on the settlement of the American West, which ties in the museum’s train collection.
“Steam locomotives were a very important aspect of this westward movement in the late 19th and early 20th century,” he said.
Snider said he enjoyed looking at the different machines.
“It’s interesting to see the design of these machines, they seem very sophistocated for the time period.”
Walters said the trip also includes facades of U.S. history that students learned in previous classes.
“The Backshops were built in 1905, when Spencer was in its infancy, a time when the early residents of Spencer were riding around on horses and carriages and building this railroad town,” he said. “Manpower built this structure that is the length of two football fields and composed of 2 million handmade brick.”
Walters said facts like that can pique the interest of students who are only slightly interested in history.
“To see a structure like this first hand is a history lesson in itself,” he said
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.