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A frenzy of fourth-grade frontier fun
by Sarah Cooper
Mar 03, 2008 | 1999 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Tony Contini - Sara Legg and Aurello Cortes narrate the Robert Mitchell Elementary School's fourth-grade presentation on Westward Ho!
Tribune/Tony Contini - Sara Legg and Aurello Cortes narrate the Robert Mitchell Elementary School's fourth-grade presentation on Westward Ho!
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Tribune/Tony Contini - Rowdy Robert Mitchell Elementary School students watch the fourth grade's presentation of Westward Ho!
Tribune/Tony Contini - Rowdy Robert Mitchell Elementary School students watch the fourth grade's presentation of Westward Ho!
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Fourth-graders in frontier garb wandered the antiquated auditorium last Friday at Robert Mitchell Elementary School. The children were learning about Nevada history and building confidence as they pranced through three short plays about pioneer life.

“The most exciting thing we have learned about is how they (the pioneers) got around and survived,” Jackson Brewer said as he adjusted the plaid vest that was just a little too large for him.

Jackson was playing the role of Frank Sager, one of six orphaned children who were adopted on the Oregon Trail by a missionary and his wife. The other two plays told the story of Bridger’s Pass and a woman’s adventures in the 1849 gold rush.

“We are trying to build confidence and make learning fun,” Tod Cieszko, one of the teachers, said. “This is so much more than just a textbook.”

Cieszko wrote the first play, “The Sager Children.” The story followed a missionary couple who adopt a ragamuffin crew of six orphans on the Oregon Trail. The story of the Sager children was descriptive of the hardships encountered during the westward movement, Cieszko said.

After the first cast took their bows, the second group of children took the stage to tell the story of Bridger’s Pass.

They passed the microphone around as they debated the dangers of a shortcut across the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The third play told Sarah’s story as she struck it rich during the California Gold Rush.

All of the fourth-grade classes participated in the presentation, reciting memorized lines in front of a spray painted prairie background.

“They are learning to be comfortable in front of people,” John Legg said as he put away the spotlight he had been shining on the stage. He and his wife, Laura, have been volunteering at the school for five years. They watched with pride as their daughter Sara narrated the story of the Sager children.

“I think it gives them confidence,” Laura Legg said, echoing her husband’s thought.

The crowd of proud parents and fellow students watched the plays from their cast iron and wooden seats in the auditorium. The setting for the play had almost as much history as the presentation itself. Children at Robert Mitchell Elementary will be celebrating the school’s 70th anniversary next school year. The academic year will be filled with commemorative events, according to school principal Ilene Roundtree.

“Our goal is to make learning exciting while staying within the standards,” Roundtree said.

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