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LVCS students participate in history

DALLAS -- Learning about the Oregon Trail has long been a highlight for Elaine Austin's fourth-grade classes at Luckiamute Valley Charter School (LVCS).

Emily Beasley, John Lumby and Nick Millien (from left) thumb through "Aurora: Daughter of the Dawn," by James Kopp on Friday. LVCS students offered suggestions improve the book after reading a draft.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Emily Beasley, John Lumby and Nick Millien (from left) thumb through "Aurora: Daughter of the Dawn," by James Kopp on Friday. LVCS students offered suggestions improve the book after reading a draft.

December 05, 2012

DALLAS -- Learning about the Oregon Trail has long been a highlight for Elaine Austin's fourth-grade classes at Luckiamute Valley Charter School (LVCS).

The class devotes weeks to studying those who made the journey and learning about what life was like on the trail.

One of Austin's classes, students who were in her blended third- and fourth-grade in the spring of 2009, can now add to their Oregon Trail learning experiences having their ideas included in a book about one family's journey west on the trail.

James Kopp, a Lewis & Clark College history professor and utopian scholar, was writing a book about the founding of the city of Aurora, originally a utopian colony, in 2009.

He was writing the book for children and from the perspective of the city's namesake, Aurora Keil, the daughter of founder Wilhelm Keil. Born in 1849, Aurora was a young girl when her family traveled to Oregon.

Learning of Kopp's book, Bev Ward, a friend of Kopp's and volunteer at LVCS, offered to have Austin's class read and offer suggestions on a rough draft of a chapter.

Wanting to see what children that age thought about his book, he pounced on the opportunity.

"He said, `Oh, that would be great!'" Ward recalled Friday. "He was still writing part of the draft. He was very pleased with that."

That spring, when Austin's class began its unit on the Oregon Trail, Ward brought a draft of a chapter titled "1855" to read to the class. After reading the chapter, Ward had the students offer suggestions about what they liked, what they would add or change, and why they would recommend the book to a friend.

"Aurora: Daughter of the Dawn"

"Aurora: Daughter of the Dawn"

Kopp died before the book published in September, but his wife, Sue, wanted to fulfill a promise Kopp made to Austin's students: give them a copy of the book they helped write. Sue Kopp visited LVCS on Friday afternoon to personally deliver the finished book to each student.

It was a surprise for the students who were part of the collaboration.

"If feels like you worked really hard for something and it paid off in the end," said now seventh-grader Maya Saiki.

Fellow seventh-grader Michael Yoder said he remembers listening to the chapter and thinking it "was a pretty good book."

Now, he feels proud to have been able to help Kopp.

"It was fun writing stuff that he could use in the book and that people might read about," he said.

Kopp compiled the class' suggestions, and according to Austin, used some of them. Several of her students told Kopp he should include more details about Aurora's family's encounters with wildlife during the months-long trek.

In the rough draft, Kopp wrote about how the Keil family members took turns sleeping in their wagon or underneath it. Austin's class imagined that those sleeping under the wagon would have seen or possibly had beenawaken and startled by curious animals. It appears Kopp found a way to weave an animal anecdote into the final draft.

"He did put some of those ideas in his book," Ward told the class during the book presentation. "You may recognize them when you get your copy."

Seventh-grader Emily Beasley was among those who wanted Kopp to write more about possible wildlife encounters.

"When he asked us what we should put in, I remember suggesting putting a rattlesnake in," Beasley said.

She hadn't yet had the chance to look for the passage Friday, but she was eager to find out if Kopp used her suggestion.

"I'm going to look for it," she said.

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