On Wednesday, the juniors at Denison High School (DHS) will travel to Yellow Smoke Park to spend the day reenacting the events that shaped America.
The event is called “Rendezvous” and is a part of a unit called “Westward Expansion” in the DHS American Heritage class.
This year’s event is similar to those of past years, but with an added emphasis on communications skills, said DHS social science instructor Dave Houston.
Polling done by Harvard’s Pew Research Center has shown that employers are increasingly looking for high school graduates with communications skills, he said.
“When I think about that in the context of what we’re doing here, I think that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Houston said.
“Number one, the kids have to communicate with others in their group. They have to come together and form the skit they have to do.”
The students are each assigned a character from the era of westward expansion and then have to use technology skills to research the individual.
Each student works with three to five others to bring the characters together in a story that can be performed.
“They have to find a way to make these stories gel with people who may have never been around each other,” Houston said. “They’re all people from the West, but they could have been somebody from 1692 and somebody from 1897 who never would have actually met.”
The students are given directions about what they must accomplish, but how they go about it is up to each group to work out.
Book and internet sources may be used to gather information, but credible sources must be used and cited. A properly–formatted source card must be created for each source of information.
“The way I look at Rendezvous is it’s a research paper, but instead of writing the paper they’re acting the paper,” Houston said.
The students will be bringing 178 characters to life on Wednesday. Some are well known; others are not.
“When you start taking about westward expansion, there are names that everybody knows and there’s a lot of information on those people, like Davy Crockett and the people that were at the Alamo,” Houston said, “but when you start talking about Abigail Scott Duniway or Bethenia Owens-Adair, they’re important, but they’re not everyday characters.”
Duniway was a women’s rights activist and a writer; Adair was a social reformer and one of the first frontier doctors.
“We tell the kids to get some basic biographical facts about the person, but they can also look up general information about what medicine was like in those days,” Houston said.
The students are expected to be ready to perform their skit when the time comes. They are also expected to learn from each performance and improve the next.
“We talk to our kids a lot about being professional students and a professional is always trying to advance and improve whatever they are doing,” he said.
Fifth grade students from Denison, Schleswig and St. Rose schools will travel to Yellow Smoke to see the performances. Zion Lutheran School’s fifth graders were unable to attend this year due to a scheduling conflict.
Rendezvous is also open to the general public.
“We like to have the public come out and see what their tax dollars are supporting, because all of this is made possible because of taxpayers in Denison, Crawford County and the United States,” Houston said.
Tours run from 10 to 11 a.m., 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and 1 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday.