WAVERLY – Nebraska history came to life last Friday for 178 students from Waverly and Eagle.

Camp Creek Threshers hosted the annual Pioneer School for fourth graders.

District 145 Pioneer School Coordinator Mary Havlovic said this was the 25th year that Waverly has taken part in the hands on learning event at the Camp Creak Threshers’ showgrounds east of town.

Overall, the 17 different activities at eight stations throughout the campus went well.

Havlovic said not a lot has changed over the last several years. It was just a couple of years ago that she, Coordinator Assistant Debbie Schmeeckle and the other volunteers worked a circular rotation system into the day. That and having volunteers take the groups of students from station to station has really helped.

She joked that after 23 years, they finally got into a routine the last two years.

That doesn’t mean that the actual activities for students doesn’t change up from time to time.

“We’ll have something for a couple of years and then something else comes up so you change it,” Havlovic said.

She said she tries to keep each session at a station to about 30 minutes, but some activities take more time than others. For example, the cross stitch craft activity can take a little longer than candle making or sitting for a lesson in the school house.

Some activities take more volunteers than others too. Havlovic said that all has to be taken into consideration when planning the day.

She usually tries to keep a group to about 22 to 23 students and then balances the number of volunteers needed at each station.

Volunteers to man the station come for a variety of sources. The High School National Honor Society members help out for the day. But so too do fourth grade parents and members of Camp Creek Threshers.

John Gall of Waverly was one of the parents helping out on Friday. It was his first year doing it but he said enjoyed helping students learn at the hand corn shelling station.

It was a good experience for both his and his child.

“It’s something different,” he added.

Camp Creek Thresher Member Charles Rulla of Palmyra agreed.

He too was helping out with the pioneer farm demonstrations. A farmer himself, he said he volunteered as a way to help promote agriculture.

“It’s something different and some people don’t know where their food comes from,” Rulla added.

And, students did learn Friday about popcorn, jelly and butter. They got to eat all three of those foods.

The students get to take something home from the day too.

They get a handwriting book from the Camp Creek schoolhouse, a postcard in the print shop and a stamp in the post office. They also can take home a tin punch pattern, rag doll and cross stitch.

The day itself is a way to cap off lessons students have been doing in their classrooms.

Gregg Culver, fourth grade teacher at Eagle Elementary, said there are four chapters in the Nebraska book that students have been working on. Pioneer School is a way to wrap up Nebraska studies.

“It’s a good way to culminate with this,” he said.

His students have been working on a writing project about Nebraska history. Culver said students will have an opportunity to add to or change their project, based on what they learned Friday.

Danielle Griffin, who helps chair the Camp Creek Threshers Pioneer School committee, said the day is a great way to cap off studies in the classroom.

For her, Pioneer School is not only about history, but also getting them out and active.

“It’s fun to see the kids get excited and it’s neat to see that so many in the community are willing to show kids experiences that don’t involve technology of today,” she said. “It’s an experience that makes them put their phones down and shows there is more to life than phones and video games.”

Griffin said the Camp Creek membership is very supportive of Pioneer School.

The group talks about it at monthly meetings and then puts out call for help

“It usually fills up almost right away,” she said about the volunteer list.

Havlovic said she is not only thankful for he volunteers but for all the businesses and individuals who make donations so Pioneer School can happen every year. She said it takes a lot of people and resources to make it possible.

Pioneer School for Waverly students has been going for the past 25 years, but it was just five years ago that Eagle students were added so that all District 145 fourth graders got the same experience.

Other schools have been added into the mix as well. Fourth graders from Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools get their chance to be at Pioneer School this week.

Students have to dress the part of a pioneer too.

In District 145, Havlovic said letters will be going out to third graders at the end of this school year in preparation for the next Pioneer School. Parents and students will make the commitment to take part.

That commitment includes studying what a pioneer would pack into a bag for lunch and knowing how a pioneer would dress.

“It’s a requirement that they bring an authentic lunch and dress for the day,” she added.

Pioneer School has been going on for so long, Havlovic said that many people just know what to expect already.

“But, we do sent out reminder notes too,” she said.

Pioneer School reached a milestone this year, but there is more history to be made and no sign of ringing the bell for the last class.

“Camp Creek does a great job of working with this,” Griffin said.

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