So, was that two beaver skins and one fox for the mirror, or a bear skin?
Second graders from Sycamore Hills Elementary in Independence got a taste Wednesday of what trading might have been like during the mid-19th-century days along the frontier trails that famously started in Independence.
Wednesday was the final day of field trips for Independence School District students to the National Frontier Trails Museum. All of the district's second graders – about 1,000 of them – take an educational trip there, and they'll get two other field trips to the museum on Pacific Avenue before they reach high school.
Would the traders and Native Americans have been able to speak to each other, volunteer guide Dave Ragan asked a group of students.
“No, they would have used sign language,” he said. “They probably wouldn't cheat, because they wanted to trade with each other again.”
After demonstrating some basic trade signs, Ragan divided the children into two groups.
“You guys set a price; how many furs do you want,” he told the boys.
At the end of trading, the two leaders shook hands. Then, having learned some of the basics of traveling the trail, the students chose a little face painting image to wear back to school.
Second grader Royce Flowers had been to the museum before with his mother.
“(I liked) getting to see what they show about the past,” he said.
Does he think he could've made such a journey as a young child, likely walking a great deal of the way? After a couple seconds, he offers a meek smile and shakes his head no.
The museum has an agreement with ISD to host second, fifth and eighth graders for varying educational experiences. The fifth graders, for one, will get to try to pack a wagon without overloading it, explained Leah Palmer, event and education manager at the Trails Museum. The eighth graders get a wagon ride around the historic sites of the Square and also visit the Bingham-Waggoner Estate across the street.
The museum hosts field trip groups from all across the metro area – public and private schools and even homeschool groups – but not to the extent of an entire grade level like ISD. Wednesday marked the end of about 1½ months of student field trips.
“We determine the curriculum with the curriculum coach; we collaborate to come up with a certain experience,” Palmer said.
The trading session has been a hit with the youngest students over the years, she said, and sometimes take it quite seriously.
“It's like Pokemon cards; they really like to try and trade things,” Sycamore Hills teacher Julie Torpey said.
One aspect Palmer enjoys is seeing eighth graders who remember their previous field trips to the Trails Museum.
“We try to hammer home, 'This is your home,' and why it was important back then,” she said. “They really get it by the end, why their town is in about every history book.”
“And our volunteers make this all possible, doing a great job with tours.”
That hometown educational root is what Torpey said she most enjoys – “letting them experience things that have started in Independence, and let them know how special it is actually to live in Independence, to experience what other kids around the country are learning.”