HOT SPRINGS - The Hot Springs third graders connected with their hometown’s architecture and history in a unique way earlier this month.

On Nov. 2, the students went on a walking tour of downtown Hot Springs with their teachers and learned about the buildings and their architectural features and also about the town’s past. Then, they created their own buildings and displayed them at the Hot Springs History Showcase at their school Nov. 15.

The purpose of the history showcase and walk  “is to fulfill our social studies standard and to help the students connect with the past,” said Diane Schroeder, who is one of two third grade teachers with Rebecca Massa. “They learn how our community started and about the unique features it has.”

The students  see a slide presentation of the buildings’ architectural features and have booklets in which they can write and include pictures. Some of the features are diaperwork, which looks like a checkerboard; dentils that look like teeth that are usually at the top of the buildings; battlements that look like the tops of castles; keystones that are wedge-shaped stone at the top of an arch; corbels that support brackets; roundels which are circular windows, Gothic Revival with arches that come to point above the doors and windows; and Richardsonian Romanesque, which features rounded arches above windows and doors.

Schroeder said the students also learn about the town’s beginning with the Indians, the warm water and Minnekahta and about the Cheyenne and Battle Mountain. They learn about early businessmen and builders Fred Evans and F.O. Butler and the stonecutters at local sandstone quarries. They see the bandshell and gazebo and learn about the early floods. The students point out the architectural features on the buildings and can touch them. 

“The students especially like hearing about Granger, the horse that pulled the fire wagon,” Schroeder said. “We talk about as much history as we know.”

The third grade history walk began in the early 1990s with teachers Gail Krah, Pat Coffield, and Patty Schuh. 

“When we taught social studies, the students learned about the importance of communities and that they are in a certain place for a certain reason,” Schuh said. “In our books we studied a town in Arizona, but it wasn’t very interesting, so we thought, why don’t we study our own town?”

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All three teachers were trained to conduct Main Street tours, so they started the walking tour for their students. They walked by the buildings and talked about the town’s history, then they traveled to Wind Cave National Park on horse-drawn covered wagons, at first, then later on school buses. They went on the candlelight tour that reenacts the 1890s. Then they went to a hill at Wind Cave, where they saw a teepee ring and learned about tools made from buffalo and deer.

“We’ve had students’ parents say they lived here all their lives and never knew about the town,” Schuh said. “It gives them pride in their town and its history.”

Recently, the History Showcase was added to the learning experience. Students are expected to work with their families to construct buildings with at least three of the architectural features that are on the sandstone buildings. The students don’t have to make a specific local building, but their projects must have the architectural features. Their material can be everything from yarn, buttons, beads, cereal, crackers, cardboard, etc. Then they are displayed at the Hot Springs History Showcase in the Elementary School Multi-purpose room for all the students to view.

“Next spring, as part of their social studies, the third grade will go on the Candlelight Tour at Wind Cave,” Schroeder said. “They will also visit the Pioneer Museum and learn about the old school that was in that building.”

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