Students get lesson in history during field trip

<p>West Park Elementary School first-grade students examine old artifacts Friday at the Echo Museum.</p>

More than 160 years ago, emigrants with covered wagons made their way across the country to the West along what is now known as the Oregon Trail.

In 1860, some emigrants left the trail and settled the Echo area, making Echo Meadows one of the first agricultural sites in Umatilla County. The area then later became a large center of large sheep ranches. In 1880, the town of Echo was platted, and, in 1883, the railroad was built through Echo, which brought prosperity to the area.

Friday, Echo Museum board members took to wearing traditional Oregon Trail attire as about 90 first-grade students from West Park Elementary School toured the various historical sites in Echo.

Museum Board member Ann Webb said the event served as a tremendous learning experience for the students.

She said the opportunity to tour the city’s historical buildings and artifacts coincided with things they are learning about in school, including Umatilla County history, the Oregon Trail and local Native American history.

“They get to actually see some of the things they are learning about, And the board really wants to bring the history of Echo to the kids,” she said.

The students visited a variety of historical stations, including a tour of the Echo Museum, story telling by Tamastslikt Cultural Institute storyteller John Bevis and the chance to make beaded necklaces at the Masonic Lodge. Students also had the chance to observe traditional wool spinning, compete in a gunny sack race at Fort Henrietta Park, experience a traditional Native American tipi and listen to a local fiddler play in the park as they had lunch.

Bright-eyed and curious, students made their way to each of the historical sites, asking questions about what people of the time wore and how they lived with such simple machinery and technology.

Webb said the field trip is potentially the first of an annual event to be held each year. She said the event qualifies as one of at least 15 required criteria for the city to receive an “Oregon Heritage All-Star Community Program” designation.

The program, through the state of Oregon, recognizes historical and heritage-minded cities.

A program designation would also provide Echo with a feature on the Travel Oregon website, two metals signs with the designation and the chance to apply for non-competitive grants from the state in an effort to continue preserving the city’s history and heritage. The city now meets approximately 12 criteria for the designation.

“It’s the first year we’ve done it, and we would like to keep doing it every year,” Webb said of the field trip. “Other schools have also expressed interest. I’m thinking we will probably do it once per year.”

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