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Wagon Ho! A field trip back in time

When Cal and Marla Clevenger bought an old wagon at a Nampa car lot, they never considered that it would evolve into Wagon Ho, an effective teaching tool about the early days of the West.

In the spring, the Clevengers (“Mr. and Mrs. C” to kid participants) host around 40 school programs, teaching kids in the state how the pioneers survived the frontier 150 to 200 years ago. They talk about Lewis and Clark’s famous journey alone the Oregon Trail - “It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Sacagawea.” They also learn about what they ate while building the railroad “Hardtack was type of bread or cracker that would last a long time in the workers’ bags. It would soften in their mouths.”

Kids get hands on experience sawing logs, washing clothes, on a washboard, priming a pump for water, lighting candles, lassoing, branding, making toys, using pioneer tools, and Dutch oven cooking.

The event takes an entire school day. The students also learn to keep small journals about their experience that they use later to write letters to the Clevengers. Reading those letters and cards are Mr. and Mrs. C’s favorite part of the whole experience.

Rain or shine, when this couple makes a promise to be there they follow through. Inclement weather only adds to the lesson. The first lesson the kids learn from Mr. C is that they are to always treat Mrs. C with the utmost respect. Anyone who doesn’t just might have to do 25 pushups or a lot more jumping jacks.

From the start of the day to the very end, Wagons Ho is a lesson not only in history but in what it takes to be a team in order to survive. It is emphasized in every activity. The students soak it up. As the day progresses, there is a marked difference in behavior. The once fidgety crowd becomes more and more focused. For a generation of kids that are more likely to understand how to code their own video game, Wagons Ho, has become an important part in finding an interest in history and the outdoors.

After Zion’s 3rd and 4th grade class participated in this program they had these things to say:

“Thank you for having us. It was the best day of my life! It was so much fun! It was so cool that Mr. C cracked the whip harder than Mrs. C did, but Mrs. C you did your best right?” Chloe

“Thank you so much for letting us come to the Wagons Ho! I learned a ton of things. My favorite station was washing the clothes and lassoing was fun too. I learned that you could make butter by shaking cream a ton.” Addie

“Thank you for letting us have fun and actually letting us use the real tools! My favorite thing to do was putting the picture from a stamp on the leather thing.” Alyssa

“Thank you so much I had a lot of fun and the best part was cutting the wood and using the bow and string to make smoke.” Cameron

“I learned about shaking butter and I like the chicken. I learned about washing dishes and washing clothes. But, my favorite part was burning the cardboard with my daddy.” Roland

“Thank you for taking our class. I learned that roping bulls was so hard but you can do it. Making butter was actually pretty easy.” Joshua

“I personally liked the saws because you got to cut the wood because I like to cut wood.” Ben

We are so happy that the student of Zion Lutheran School have the opportunity to take part in hands on learning events like this. The small class sizes lend themselves to great enrichment opportunities like Wagons Ho!

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