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Bringing history into class

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Brian Wallace's eighth-grade history class listens to teacher Ben Tull talk about Lewis and Clark at Eagle Valley Middle School on Wednesday.
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Someday, David Reese wants to follow the trail of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the northern United States.

“It looks like a lot of fun to travel all the lands they went through,” he said.

But for now the eighth-grader is content to listen to Montana native and special-education teacher Ben Tull share his own experiences at Eagle Valley Middle School.

“Being from Montana, Lewis and Clark is huge,” Tull said. “I took a college-level class. We went on the trail and went to all the important parts in Montana.”

In May 1804, Lewis and Clark set out from St. Charles, Mo., to explore the Louisiana Purchase, bought by the United States in 1803. With the help of Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian, the expedition led by the two men, made it to the Pacific Coast in December 1805. Sacagawea knew some of the land and helped interpret when the group met Shoshone tribes.

“What I like to emphasize to the kids is that a woman, at the age of 16 when she went on this journey, saved this expedition numerous times,” he said.

Tull has been in U.S. history classes at Eagle Valley Middle School for several days sharing slides of his own adventures and souvenirs he has collected. This is the second year that Tull, who has been teaching at Eagle Valley for two years, has taken over history classes for a couple of days.

“We did it last year,” he said. “It went over really well and the kids really liked it.”

In March 1806, nearly 200 years ago, Lewis and Clark left the Pacific Coast to begin their trek back home. Student Joshua Peacock, 14, said given the chance, he’d likely have joined the expedition.

“I probably would have gone,” he said. “Because I’m a hunter, and I like doing that kind of stuff.”

On their journeys, Lewis and Clark took a peace medal featuring then-President Thomas Jefferson to give as gifts to the tribes they met. Students passed around replicas of the medals in the classroom. Tull also had beads, a piece of leather, and books, including “The Food Journal of Lewis and Clark.”

He had even wanted to make buffalo jerky for students from a recipe in the book, but found the undertaking too expensive.

“I also want to emphasize that we, as Americans, weren’t exactly nice to the Native Americans,” he said. “A lot of the peace treaties Lewis and Clark set up, we kind of broke later on.”

Joshua said he’s been enjoying the Lewis and Clark lesson.

“This is much better (than reading from a book) because it’s funner,” he said. “It’s more of a hands-on activity – like we get to touch the stuff he actually has from Lewis and Clark.”

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.