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Community lessons taught at Sparks Museum
by Garrett Valenzuela
Sep 06, 2012 | 4105 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - First-grade students from Van Gorder Elementary School in Spanish Springs admire a submarine display Thursday morning at the Sparks Museum.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - First-grade students from Van Gorder Elementary School in Spanish Springs admire a submarine display Thursday morning at the Sparks Museum.
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SPARKS — For 25 years of her 32-year teaching career Tammy Higgins has brought her students to the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center. The first-grade teacher feels the museum is an important symbol of community, and a perfect place to teach children about what their community has to offer.

Higgins and fellow first-grade teacher Kathy Klebenow brought their Van Gorder Elementary School students to downtown Sparks Thursday for a tour of the museum, train station and Glendale School. The first-grade students were guided by museum staff member Dick Dreiling in learning about historical landmarks, clothing and much more.

“What I love is that a lot of the parents have never been to this museum and they all come back and bring their kids,” Higgins said. “The kids learn so much about the history of the railroad, the special displays they have each year and even find out what an icebox is. They teach them the history these kids don’t even understand, so its fun for them.”

Higgins and Klebenow were accompanied by six parents as they roamed through different exhibits learning, every step of the way, how the community of Sparks has evolved over time and what it means to be a part of the community.

“(The museum) is in a small place and the volunteers are amazing. What I like is that they talk to the kids, but they also talk to the parents so they are able to learn a lot of history and go home and talk to their children about it,” Higgins said. “The kids get to sit in the little desks and realize that kids first through eighth grade sat in those seats. It’s a snapshot of history.”

Higgins brings her class to the museum once each year for their lesson in community. She also takes her class on field trips to Carson City, to the Capitol building and museums, the local arboretum and Davis Creek.

Higgins said the class, when it returns to Van Gorder, will learn about maps beginning with a map of downtown Sparks and the areas it visited. She said the museum tour is one of the most important field trips students can attend because the community takes center stage and is described by those who have seen the growth of the city.

“(The museum) is a hidden treasure in my opinion. It is staffed by many people who went to school here in Sparks and they have their pictures and things in the museum that were donated by them or their parents,” she said. They are passionate about this place and about Sparks. I think that translates and the kids feel that.

Higgins said the museum’s transformation from previously being a library and courthouse brings a rich history to the building. She said that gives her students a taste of it now entices them to visit when they are older and seek more information about their community.

“This is just an introduction for these first graders. As the kids get older, and into fourth and fifth grade, they may come here when they are studying Nevada,” she said. “It’s fun to see the kids really get into it and hear some of the questions they ask. They get very excited about some of the stuff. It’s really cool to see.”
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