Friday morning, the Locust Historical Society and Museum (LHSM) hosted a spring Heritage Day event for kindergarten, first and second grade students from Locust Elementary School. The students heard folktales from a local storyteller, viewed the skins and skulls of North Carolina mammals and learned about local Native American culture.
Students made the short walk from school to the Officer Jeff Shelton Memorial Park for the field trip. Presenters were set up in three stations. Classes rotated through the stations learning through stories, presentations and hands-on activities.
At station A, Janet Gilreath, from the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Pee Dee National Refuge, taught the students about animal family groups, habitats and characteristics. Students took an up-close look at the skins and skulls of many native mammals found in North Carolina, including skunks, possums, squirrels and coyotes. The kids also enjoyed learning about the live reptiles and amphibians Gilreath brought to show.
“It’s always good if you can get hands on for the smaller ones [children],” said Gilreath, as she coaxed a turtle out from hiding inside his shell. Gilreath tailored her presentation toward the younger students by focusing more on live animals, while older students took a closer look at animal skins and skulls.
At station B, students enjoyed folktales shared by local storyteller Susan Sharples. When asked why storytelling is important for children, Sharples, a retired Stanly County teacher, said, “Oral history is one of the best things that can be passed down to our children. Children need to hear stories told and read aloud. That gives them a different venue of learning about the world and stretches their imagination…It’s a really important part of growing up.”
During Friday’s field trip, kindergarteners listened as Sharples told the story of Epossumondus. First graders enjoyed the story of Jack and the Robbers, a Jack tale from the mountains. Second grade students heard the Ghost Dog tale from the mountains. Sharples’ animated way of storytelling kept the rapt attention of both students and teachers alike.
At station C, students learned about local Native American life from Matt Steed. With Cherokee blood as part of his family heritage, Steed, or “Big Frog,” taught the children about Cherokee culture. The students learned about Native American pow wows and the art of Native American flute making. Dressed in a Native American costume, Steed demonstrated the haunting sounds of several of his handmade flutes.
In past years, LHSM has sponsored one Heritage Day event for the entire school at Locust Elementary. This year, by the school’s request, the museum sponsored separate field trips, a fall field trip for the third through fifth grade age group and a spring field trip for the kindergarten through second grade age group.
According to LHSM board member, Bill Tucker, the two separate field trips allowed for smaller groups and made things easier for presenters to tailor their presentations to the age level of the children.
In the fall, Locust Elementary third through fifth graders attended a Heritage Day event where they experienced the life of a Civil War solider, learned about the trade of a cordwainer and tried out the tools of a woodwright. Each year, the museum’s Heritage Day events receive rave reviews from both teachers and students.
The Locust Historical Society and Museum is located on Officer Jeff Shelton Park Drive between the park and the ballfields. The museum is open on Sunday afternoons from 2-4 p.m.