Strawberry Park Elementary School kindergartner Luka Russell gets a helping hand from high school student Zava Zupan while learning to rope during Western Heritage Day at the school. The event was a chance for students to learn about Steamboat Springs history.

Photo by John F. Russell

Strawberry Park Elementary School kindergartner Luka Russell gets a helping hand from high school student Zava Zupan while learning to rope during Western Heritage Day at the school. The event was a chance for students to learn about Steamboat Springs history.

Strawberry Park Elementary School students get Western-themed education

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— A walk through Strawberry Park Elementary School’s campus Friday featured hay bales, farm animals, lassos and dozens of children decked out in Western-themed outfits.

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Strawberry Park Elementary School kindergartner Leslie Prieto pets a rabbit during Western Heritage Day at the school.

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Strawberry Park Elementary School kindergartner Bradley Snyder and his classmates learn about ranching during Western Heritage Day at the school.

It was Western Heritage Day at Strawberry Park, which is part of the school’s yearlong "My Place, My Home" program to educate students about Steamboat Springs history.

The idea began in Allyson Spear’s first-grade classroom in the spring, when her students wanted to hold a Western day as part of their curriculum. The idea spilled over into the 2013-14 school year, and just a few weeks ago, it blossomed into a schoolwide celebration for all grade levels to participate.

“Our hope is the kids will be (learning) a lot throughout the year, and we’ll have special days to make it hands on,” Spear said. “Just constantly, as a school, anybody who comes up with something to celebrate ‘My Place, My Home,’ we’re pretty much allowed to give our ideas and branch out. We’re a very close-knit team here.”

Pinned on the walls throughout Strawberry Park were slogans like “Yee Haw” and “Giddy Up” along with crafts that students assembled during the week. Classes were escorted by their respective teachers from station to station where plenty of hands-on learning opportunities were made available.

Kindergarten, first- and second-grade students enjoyed Western crafts, barrel racing lessons, line dancing and the petting zoo with a chicken, bunny and a white Holstein calf named Donny. Students in third through fifth grades participated in a session on the cowboy virtues as well as a lesson about ethics and activities among the original Westerners. During lunch hour, all students listened to live fiddle music and learned how to rope a calf with a lasso.

Spear said the inaugural Western day of the school year drew rave reviews from the students. The CSU Extension Routt County and 4-H’ers from local high schools joined the Strawberry Park teaching staff to make the event come together.

More Western days could be on the horizon for students as the school year pushes forward. Spear said the primary focus is fostering interest among the students about the community of which they are a part. In turn, she hopes for all of Strawberry Park to have a better historical understanding of the Steamboat area and an appreciation for how it has evolved.

“Our Western theme doesn’t end here,” Spear said. “Our school will be learning and doing activities about Steamboat history, then and now, during the year.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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