Taking a step back in time

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History usually is taught chronologically, but third-grade classes at Soda Creek Elementary are reversing course in their study of Routt County.

Rather than begin their lengthy local history unit with stories of Ute Indians or early Anglo pioneers and settlers, third-grade teachers at the school are starting with modern-day Steamboat Springs.

Hence Friday's "Tourist for a Day" field trip, during which third-graders -- those in the classes of Sue Barnes, Kim Waldschmidt and Allyson Spear -- loaded onto buses and transformed from year-round residents to weekend vacationers.

The first stop brought the children to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, where a chamber employee talked about the importance of a visitor's center.

The students were then bused to the Steamboat Ski Area, where a gondola ride to Thunderhead led to a lesson on the history of skiing in Steamboat Springs by Marty Woodbury, director of Tread of Pioneers Museum.

"Knowing local history is terribly important," Woodbury said. "I think you have to understand where you've been to know where you're going."

Woodbury mesmerized the students with stories of Bud Werner and Carl Howelsen and how certain ski trails were named.

The students seemed to gobble up every one of Woodbury's words.

"We have a great history," 8-year-old Ben Custer said. "It's so old, and such great people have lived here. I like pretty much everything about Steamboat."

A main emphasis in the start of the history unit is the importance of tourism in the local economy.

"Tourism is very important to Steamboat so companies can keep running," Custer said.

Third-grader Jessica Bertrand identified skiing and horseback riding as two activities that attract visitors to the area.

Understanding what makes communities unique is important for children to learn, even if it takes maturity and time spent elsewhere to fully appreciate this area, teacher Kim Waldschmidt said.

"Hopefully they learn to appreciate it more as they grow up and learn the values of whichever community they choose to live in," she said.

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