Dallas Heritage Village’s annual Old Fashioned Fourth event was the backdrop for the Junior Historians’ ribbon cutting on Saturday, July 4, unveiling the young history buffs’ most recent project – curating the Renner School. This year, the Village’s youth volunteer group researched what attending school would be like for children in 1910 and developed special exhibits for the Renner School, a one-room schoolhouse. Sponsored by Joe M. and Doris R. Dealey Family Foundation, this project included the installation of new cabinets featuring historic artifacts selected by the Junior Historians, such as pictures, historic books, children’s clothing, paper dolls, maps, school books and more. They also researched and wrote fictional student profiles and placed them at a selection of desks. During the July 4th event, the Historians took on the role of teachers, hosting spelling bees for guest participation as well as historic schoolyard games.
“We are very proud of the Junior Historians’ project at the Renner School,” added Melissa Prycer, president and executive director, Dallas Heritage Village. “Those who specifically worked on the project met nearly once a month for the past year to plan, and then they individually worked on specific pieces. They impress me each year with their love of history, research, creativity and hard work.”
There are 30-40 Junior Historian members, ages 11-18, who volunteer throughout the year at the Village and select a special project or exhibit to curate each year. The following Historians focused on the Renner School project: Elizabeth McPherson, 15, of Dallas (75206); Daniel Melson, 15, of Dallas (75248) and Richardson ISD; Adam Pennings, 15, of Palmer; sisters Lydia Radke, 12, and Sophia Radke, 16, both of Duncanville; and Sarah Rutherford, 14, of Dallas (75287) and Plano ISD.
“I enjoyed picking out the artifacts for the display case and writing some student profiles to go on desks,” said Lydia Radke, 12, who has been a Junior Historian for one year. “These profiles are similar to short diary entries and give a glimpse into what school life was like then. I researched the town of Renner, schoolhouses of the late 1800s, and the subjects the students studied. Then I copied the various profiles I had written down on to slates that are now on desks in the schoolhouse.”
Sarah Rutherford, 14, wrote student profiles and participated in exhibit planning. “I really liked doing the research and planning the exhibit,” she added. “It’s hard to imagine growing up attending school in a one- or two-room schoolhouse!”
“Throughout the day during the Old Fashioned Fourth event, we held spelling bees for those who visited the school,” added Radke. “Depending on how old our participants were we would make the words harder or easier. I would like to be a teacher one day.”
Elizabeth McPherson, 15, who has been a Junior Historian since 2011, also helped with the spelling bees in the schoolhouse.
“It was great to see people enjoying the exhibit and to do an authentic schoolhouse activity for them,” added McPherson. “One excited little boy asked me if we had candy for the winner, and I just smiled and told him, ‘No, we only have books about Abraham Lincoln!’”
McPherson also enjoyed learning about school life in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“Back then if you misbehaved the teacher would rap your hands with a ruler to teach a lesson or send you straight home. Teachers could also make you wear a dunce cap, and I made one for the display case,” added McPherson. “I think these artifacts will help guests learn what schoolhouses of the time were like for children. I liked going through things and selecting items to showcase.”
Adam Pennings, 15, who became a Junior Historian last year, participated by writing some of the student profiles, selecting artifacts, and helping to design and install the exhibit.
“My student profile was about a young boy writing to his mother who had just moved to Chicago,” said Pennings. “He told her all about life at home, how he missed her, and how school was. I really enjoyed deciding where to put the various things in the display case and installing the exhibit. I have always liked the schoolhouse, and the new exhibit gives people the opportunity to learn more about the history of education in the Dallas area. Kids can relate to the schoolhouse, and I definitely think the work we did has made this a more enjoyable and informative exhibit.”
Daniel Melson, 15, a Junior Historian for the past three years, enjoyed learning about slingshots and putting one together to showcase in the exhibit.
“It has been fun to be a part of history and this great group,” said Melson. “What we did is now an exhibit that a lot of people will see every year. As Junior Historians, we not only learn more about history, but we bring it to life for others.”
Guests may view the new exhibit any time during operating hours with general admission: $9 Adults, $7 Seniors (65+), $5 Children (4 to 12 years). Members of Dallas Heritage Village are admitted free of charge.
“It has been great to see my daughters Sophia and Lydia become involved at Dallas Heritage Village as Junior Historians,” said Leslie Radke. “This program teaches them that they can help do something important even though they are kids. Not only that, it helps them to develop their skills in speaking and having conversations with the public as they give tours or explain various artifacts. It’s wonderful to watch them enjoy giving back and making a difference.”
“The Junior Historian program is much more than just a special program for teenagers who love history,” continued Adam Pennings. “It’s also about learning to be responsible young adults, who can be trusted with history and its artifacts, and becoming a better person.”
For more information or to learn how to become a Junior Historian, call (214) 413-3669. Visit www.dallasheritagevillage.org.