Students take part in Pioneer Days ahead of Filley Harvest Festival

October 3, 2018
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Norris students watch Chris Witulski make marbles Wednesday inside the Filley Stone Barn as part of Pioneer Days. Witulski will be at the Filley Harvest Festival Saturday to show off more of his work.

Students are getting a chance to play the part of pioneer at the historic Filley Stone Barn before this weekend’s Filley Harvest Festival as part of the annual Pioneer Days.

Blue Valley Antique Tractor Association and Homestead National Monument are teaming up to bring the students out to the barn this week to learn what it was like to be a pioneer.

Norris students took part in pioneering activities both at Homestead and the Filley Stone Barn on Wednesday. At Homestead, students were taught how to find and make toys from their surroundings and wash clothes, among other activities.

In Filley, students got to partake in picking corn and sawing logs, as well as watching a blacksmith work and learning how marbles are made.

Homestead park ranger Susan Cook said the partnership has been putting on Pioneer Days activities for at least 15 years.

She said that Pioneer Days is a way to get the students engaged in what they are learning.

Each activity is put on by a Homestead volunteer or a member of the Blue Valley Tractor Association. Harrold Otto, a member of the tractor association, has been helping with Pioneer Days for four years. He said it always seems like the students enjoy the activities.

Pioneer Days started Wednesday and lasts until Friday. Wednesday was devoted to Norris students. Beatrice surrounding schools get to take part on Thursday, with Beatrice schools scheduled for Friday.

Norris fourth-grade teacher, Nicole Bishop, said that the students love going to Pioneer Days.

“In fourth grade, we learn all about Nebraska history,” she said. “So it goes along with what we read in our textbook and [we] get to do hands-on activities and get a glimpse of what it would be like as a pioneer in that time period.”

Cook said that she has met some high school students who have told her that they remember when they went to Pioneer Days at Homestead.

“It has a lasting impact on these kids and that’s why we do it,” Cook said.

On Saturday, the Filley Harvest Festival kicks off with a lot of similar activities, including corn husking and shelling, blacksmith demos and marble making. The festival lasts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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