Fourth graders travel back in time to the Wild West

Fort Sill_Time machines have yet to be invented, but on Friday, Geronimo Road Elementary School on Fort Sill had the next best thing.  Students traveled back almost 200 years, to live as folks did in a 19th century encampment.

Elementary students from Geronimo, Sheridan, and Brockland Schools traveled back to the 1800s, where they met "pioneers" with covered wagons, "cowboys" with horses and lassoes, and Native Americans with teepees - it was a trip to the wild west that even included an old-fashioned gun show.

Geronimo fifth grade teacher Dan Wilmore is a math teacher, but his love for history led him to turn a playground into the Wild West - and, it wasn't just for his enjoyment.  "It's for our kids, and that's our whole focus," he says.  "[It's] to make sure the kids get what they need to make them successful - let 'em see it, be it, and touch it, and that makes a great education."

Wilmore wasn't the only teacher that did something differently on Friday.  Don Haines teaches computer classes at Geronimo, but on this day, he was a "wood right" - a person who builds furniture by hand.  The kids were surprised to see him wearing anything other than his usual nice shirt and pants.  "They go 'we've never seen you like that before', and it kind of shocks them a little bit," he says.  "They like to see what we do every now and then."

The entire day was about active participation.  "You can talk to a kid all day long and try to make them understand, out of a book, what history is about," says Haines.  "But if they can feel it, and touch it, and smell it, then it'll be stuck in their head forever."  One thing the kids definitely could smell was gunpowder.

The teachers took the gun show as an opportunity to teach their students about gun safety.  "When these kids come across a gun, they're curious, they're not around them, so they want to play with them," says Carla Hagan with the Old West Production Company.  "So we inform them.  If you see one, make sure you get a hold of a parent, an adult; do not touch."  While the shots the gunfighters were firing were blanks, they told the kids that it's still dangerous.  "It's just powder, but when it comes out it can spread out, it'll pepper you, and it can hurt," said Don Hagan.

The event was Geronimo Road's second encampment at the playground.  Last year's was only for their school, and had 16 activities.  This year it expanded to 28 different stations with Sheridan Road School joining in the fun.