Home-Grown History ; Back to the Past: Early Days Come Alive Area Students Learning about Hometowns' Past

By Archer, Kim | Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK), January 18, 2013 | Go to article overview

Home-Grown History ; Back to the Past: Early Days Come Alive Area Students Learning about Hometowns' Past


Archer, Kim, Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK)


History may not be a student favorite, but one way to hook kids on the subject is to go local.

"Regardless of how the locality is defined, there is great value in connecting the people and events of the local area to state, national and world history," said Kathryn Shurden, who along with her daughter, Mandy Brumley, has created a curriculum so that students can learn about the history of their own hometowns.

The Oklahoma Local History Curriculum provides resources, lesson plans, assessment standards and more to guide teachers in localizing history.

"History - the events that shape our lives - doesn't just happen on some grand scale. History becomes much more meaningful when we understand that we are the heirs of the ideas, values and traditions resulting from those events," Shurden said. "History, like politics, is really just local, after all."

An avid history buff, Shurden grew up in Seminole County hearing stories about the region's rich history, including the oil boom days springing from the Betsy Foster No. 1 oil well near Wewoka and her father's childhood growing sorghum cane and making cane syrup to sell to folks in town.

"I thought everyone knew the events that shaped their communities and how it affects who we are today. Then I moved," she said.

Shurden's local history effort began when she saw a map at a downtown office in Henryetta that showed a labyrinth of tunnels that run beneath the town's streets.

" 'What are those?' I asked. 'Coal mines' was the short answer," Shurden recalled.

The long answer, she said, has been a research project of nearly two decades to understand how coal attracted railroads, immigrants, labor unions and land speculators to Indian Territory.

Shurden found that most people in the area had no idea about the history of their own town, and she set out to remedy that, starting with Henryetta students. The curriculum has spread to more than two dozen districts, including Alva, Broken Arrow, Eufaula, Okemah, Okmulgee, Stidham and Tuttle. …

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