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Taylorsville Journal

Students live what they’ve learned at Mountain Man Rendezvous

May 30, 2019 03:45PM ● By Jet Burnham

Pioneers and traders barter at the Trading Post. (Jet Burnham\City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

On May 2, Vista Elementary fourth-graders became pioneers, traders and trappers attending a Mountain Man Rendezvous held on the back field of Vista Elementary.

Principal Diane Phillips arranged for the activity to supplement what the students have been learning all year about Utah history.

“What a great hands-on experience to actually have an opportunity to live what you learn in the history books,” she said. “Any time you can make those connections, it becomes more real and more of a stronger learning experience.”

Students spent the morning outdoors, doing the work of mountain men, including leather tooling, tin-punching, panning for gold and bartering at a trading post. 

“I think that they are learning techniques that they probably wouldn’t ever have to apply in their lives—the physical activities that people had to do on a daily basis,” said Nanette Berezhnyy, parent of fourth-grader. She said it was good to see the kids enjoying simple activities and engaging in “screen-free learning.” She said for the kids to experience the hard work of that time period would hopefully help them appreciate their modern technology and conveniences.

Once students sifted “gold nuggets” from a plastic pool full of sand and water, they traded them for tickets to purchase items at the trading post. They also earned tickets for making a bull’s-eye in a seed-spitting contest and winning a leg or arm wrestling match. 

Enoch Dutson, fourth-grade teacher at Vista, said the main goal for the morning was for students to have fun. But the immersive experience provided some educational opportunities to learn as well.

“Hopefully, they learn a little bit of what life was like,” said Dutson.

Visiting mountain men brought animal furs and authentic tools and equipment. They even set up a teepee in Vista’s back field. 

Boondoggle crafts are taught inside a teepee. (Jet Burnham\City Journals)


 “A lot of kids have never seen one up close—and never been in one,” said Phillips. Students climbed inside the teepee to learn how to weave boondoggle. They also created bracelets with leather tooling and hammered nails into orange juice lids to create designs.

Parent volunteers and school support staff, dressed in pioneer and mountain man garb, helped run the different activities, which included the sampling of Dutch oven cobblers cooked on-site.

Janie Beck is Becky Beck’s sixth child to study Utah history in fourth grade but the first to participate in a Vista Rendezvous because this is the first one the school has ever held. New to the school this year, Phillips introduced the staff and parents to the idea.

Beck said her family attended a large rendezvous in Wyoming a few years ago, and the experience made an impression on her kids.

“Any time they have experiences connected, it always stays with them,” she said.

Beck said the activities at Vista’s Rendezvous gave the kids an opportunity to appreciate how much easier their lives are compared with the people living in the 1800s. Students also enjoyed participating in the old-fashioned crafts and games.

“They seem to be having just as much fun as if they were playing their video games,” said Beck.

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