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Texas History Comes Alive For Middle School Students (May 7,2007)

PHMS Checkers MatchCowboy Historian Speaks to Wester StudentsSeventh Grade is known for many things – the kids get taller, the boys start football and everyone takes Texas History. It is a time when students, whether born here or relocated, become indoctrinated in Texas lore and legend – learning everything from the ways of the native tribes, the story of Goliad and the Alamo and pride in the state’s rich heritage.

Wester Middle School and Pioneer Heritage Middle School both recently devoted entire days to activities celebrating Texas heritage and the culture of the west. Students enjoyed guest speakers and hands-on activities such as making their own butter and dream catchers. They also played games that involved absolutely no electronic gadgets. PHMS Students had a checkers tournament, similar to ones held in bunk houses on cattle ranches years ago.

Both schools invited professional actors, musicians and historians to discuss the lives of the cowboys, the buffalo hunters and the Native American tribal peoples. At Wester, students learned facts about hunting wild animals including bears and buffalo. A Native American speaker, Clifton Fifer, at PHMS explained that it was not unusual for warriors to go into battle with the cry “Today is a good day to die,” something students had probably heard in television shows attributed to imaginary aliens.

Wester students joined their physical education teachers outside to play a rousing game of Have You Seen My Sheep. Kristen Hebert from Wester explained the role of the game in pioneer days: “A typical pioneer school had only one room, one teacher and about twenty-five students in grades one through eight.  Not only did boys and girls off different ages study together, they often played together during recess.” This is how the game is played.

Have You Seen My Sheep

  1. The players stand in a circle
  2. One student walks around on the outside, and touching one of the circle players on the back, asks “Have you seen my sheep?”
  3. The one questioned answers, “How is he dressed?”
  4. The outside player then describes the dress of someone in the circle, saying for instance, “He wears a red necktie; he is dressed in grey and has low shoes.”
  5. The one questioned then names the players who he thinks this described, and if right, (per the walker) at once begins to chase him around the outside of the circle.
  6. Every player which is accurately guessed must run around the outside of the circle, chased, by the player who guessed, and try to reach his own place before being tagged.
  7. The one who gives the description does not take part in the chase.  Should the runner be tagged before returning to his place, he must take the place of the questioner, walking around the outside of the circle and asking of some player, “Have you seen my Sheep?”

Even though the day was a break from the normal routine each event was specifically tied to Texas TEKS of social studies, according to Cynthia Bryant of PHMS.  The concepts encouraged students to be able to identify significant individuals, events and issues from the Reconstruction period through the beginning of the 20th century that involved expansion of the Texas frontier, the effects of expansion on tribal peoples, cowboy myths and realities, buffalo soldiers and important historical figures. The day also explored diversity of cultures in Texas. Bryant said PHMS is looking forward to expanding their speakers and experiences in coming years.

Other middle schools in Frisco Independent School District also have speakers and hands-on activities for students but they intersperse them throughout the year. Staley Middle School history teacher David Watson began the tradition of encouraging students to experience Texas history by weaving rope from yucca plants, making corn husk dolls, constructing homemade bows and arrows and attending a rodeo.