Grand Island, NE -
Adult living historians at Stuhr Museum work with about a dozen kids each year on the basics of bringing history to life through interpretation, which results in both a hands on history lesson and the opportunity to get more involved.
From fun to food to farming, kids are learning about life in the late 1800’s by living it.
“What the games were, how you would speak, how you would interact with other people,” says Nakia Wilkerson.
Wilkerson first took Stuhr’s Living History Apprentice class two years ago. Now she volunteers as a living history apprentice at Stuhr events, and is helping teach students like Ella Kissinger, one of ten enrolled in the introductory class this year.
After four days of immersed learning, Kissinger thinks she’s better off interpreting what life would be like for someone her age 120 years ago.
“You have to be quiet and stuff and you have to be very, very helpful, and honestly I don’t think I’m the most helpful person, I’m never quiet,” she says.
Teachers say the basics of living history include facts, stories, how to act, and how to engage visitors.
“They’re immersed in the different time periods that we have here at the museum and learn how to be interpreters, first-person, and learn the history of the area,” says Loren Miller, a living history interpreter.
The key word is “living.” Museum officials say it’s the best way to learn as a student, or as a guest.
“Not just reading about it, yes, we have wonderful books out there, but to be able to experience it and especially on a warmer day to start sweating just like you would – that’s the living history,” says Renae Hunt, the Living History Apprentice teacher and volunteer coordinator at the museum.
Hunt says the class started ten years ago as a way to coach the kids of staff members who wanted to be involved in activities, but became much more.
“How they need to present themselves, how they need to share information with the guests, and it kind of culminated into a learning experience for them,” she says.
One hope Miller and Hunt have is that these apprentices will come back after the class is done and become one of Stuhr’s most valuable assets – a volunteer.
“Hopefully encourage them to come back and help in volunteering – either Railroad Town or Summer School or special events that we have throughout the year,” says Miller.
“I’ve been enjoying it and I think other people would enjoy it too because you get to learn a lot of things and you make a lot of great friends,” says Kissinger.
Teachers say many kids do return to Stuhr to help out and be living history apprentices. Hunt says some have even gone on to make interpretation and history their careers.