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Murray Journal

Murray schoolchildren discover their community’s history while learning about Utah

Dec 02, 2022 02:53PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

During his class visit to the Murray Museum, Grant Elementary fourth-grader Konnor Boddy learned how pioneers came to the area with handcarts, got water from Little Cottonwood Creek for their crops and traded their supplies with each other.

“I learned the kids worked as hard as the grown-ups,” he said. “The pioneers’ crops were mostly grain and there was a lot of hard labor involved back then. It’s evolved; we’ve gotten smarter.”

During their class field trip, the students learned about the impact the Great Salt Lake had on the settlers’ crops, how Native Americans hunted with bows and arrows and fished along the Jordan River, and about the games children played—and they learned about the Mormon crickets.

“The settlers were excited about their crops, but swarms of crickets came and destroyed a lot of them—until the seagulls came and helped to save enough for the pioneers to eat,” Konnor said.

As they moved around the museum, they completed a scavenger hunt that had items to check off from a Pony Express marker to ore samples to a musket to a pair of boxing gloves.

When they saw a washboard on display, their teacher, Ginger Shaw, told them that she had used one before. When the museum docent held up a wringer to squeeze the water out of clothes, students guessed it was a device to make spaghetti or paper.

“Pioneer children did the laundry as well as planted and picked the crops on top of their other chores and schooling,” the docent told them.

Fourth-grader Kensley West learned they also ironed their clothes with a heavy metal iron and was excited to learn about shoemaking.

“My grandpa made shoes that way,” she said.

The Grant students also learned that some students wrapped themselves in blankets and rode to school in a horse-drawn cutter sleigh, like the one the Erekson family donated. They learned their school district was formed in 1905 and saw early artifacts like an attendance record book and a slate and chalk.

The fourth-graders also learned about how the city moved away from being an agricultural community to a booming smelter town—and how it has changed since the smokestacks were demolished.

“That’s how Murray High got its colors of black and orange, from the black soot and slag and burning color in the smelters,” their teacher said.

Much of Murray’s history can be found at the museum, Shaw said.

“The history of Murray comes alive through the artifacts and stories found here at the Murray Museum,” she said. “This gives the students a chance to learn what it was like and how it has changed. We learn about Utah history in fourth grade, so it’s important to learn the story of our own community where some of their relatives may have lived. It gives them a greater appreciation of Utah and our diversity.”

To further tie in their study of the state, the class also has plans to study Utah’s counties before hosting a county fair in January and travel to This is the Place Heritage Park and the state capitol in the spring.