Buena Vista Students Get Hands-on with History

History comes alive in the Buena Vista Elementary School (Auburn, Wash.) eighth-grade classroom as the Transcontinental Railroad chugs around the entire classroom. This huge model railroad was constructed by students as they studied history from the 1860s to the completion of the railroad in the laate 1800s.

The 10-week project encompassed more than just history. Spelling class included words from the railroad building era. Students also studied the different rock formations along the route and used mathematical equations to determine the correct incline and declines for the train.

Each student also prepared a résumé to apply for a job on the railroad and sat through an interview with their teacher, Scott Spies. "Foremen" were hired to review résumés and hire their individual crews. Pay was one dollar per day in money printed with the foreman’s picture on it.

Amy Alderman said she learned to “look out for the small things” and that it “pays to work hard on something.” The students learned not only about history but also felt the satisfaction of seeing a job well done and seeing the wonder in the younger students' eyes as they watched the train chug around the track.

July 01, 2005 / Washington Conference