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Hundreds of students go back in time at Colusa park
Maybe all history lessons should use authentic muskets, cannons and beaver traps as educational props.
It worked for Willows' Cameron Khamaloun on Tuesday as he learned exactly how to set an animal pelt trap on the muddy banks of the Sacramento River, just like real trappers did in the 1840s.
"I like learning from books, but this is better for sure," added Maxwell's Natalie Wilson.
The two fourth-graders were part of a large group of students from different schools that converged on Colusa Levee Park to see live historical presentations put on by members of the Sutter's Fort State Historic Park's "Living Mobile History Program."
The program, which started in the 1970s, involves about six to 10 actors and experts setting up real tent encampments to represent life in the Sacramento Valley as it was in the 1840s, said program leader Steve Beck.
The presenters perform one or two shows daily this week, ending on Friday.
"We all really live in these tents during the week, too," Beck explained.
The extreme nature of the role playing adds an authenticity to the performances, which serve not only as a historical lesson, but also as a tribute to the hard nosed men and women that carved themselves a new home in the harsh and unforgiving western frontier.
"It's awesome because they shot a cannon, that was cool," explained Willows' Colton Geiger.
Geiger, 9, said he believes he could have been a trapper back in the old days, saying he likes the idea of secretly setting traps alone, battling the elements.
In addition to the animal trapping presentation, students also received demonstrations involving old fashioned cooking techniques and lessons on the importance and scarcity of meat.
"The average person can eat eight to 10 pounds of meat every day," "Hunter" Bradley Jennings explained to students. "So, as a hunter, if I have 10 to 20 people staying in my camp, it is very important to get enough meat for everyone."
Jennings then showed students how to load and fire an old fashioned musket to the amazement of several young boys, who openly questioned the time-consuming nature of musket re-loading.
"The bear is not going to wait for you to put the bullet back in, right?" questioned one fourth-grader.
Presenters like Dennis "Biscuits" Brehm, who passed around authentic beaver and otter pelts, used some "modern-type" analogies to reach the young pupils.
"We stack these pelts like Pringles."
Students and teachers agree the presentation is not only educational, but is also a really good show, too.
"We come every year, probably for the last 12 years," said Maxwell Elementary teacher Dianna Detlefsen. "It's great to get the kids a little taste of 1843."