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‘Lotts’ of learning on Laura Ingalls Day

Buggies, butter, fiddles and woodcarving churned together for Laura Ingalls Wilder Day at A.L. Lotts Elementary School Friday, May 7.

About 180 students dressed for the event. Many parents created look-a-like costumes from the 1800s for the children.

Bonnets and prairie dresses trimmed in lace and embroidery were worn by the girls. Old fashioned suspenders, overalls and collared shirts were worn by the boys.

Wearing a yellow dress made by her mother, Mackenzi Robinson, 10, couldn’t pick just one favorite of the day. She adored “mostly the dress.”

While looking at the horse drawn carriage, she said, “And we get to ride the buggy!”

Mackenzi’s mother, Tina Robinson, said, “She’s learning to go back in time, back before we had electricity.”

She said classes went on a field trip to Rocky Mount Museum: A Living History Site in Piney Flats (between Bristol and Johnson City). Rocky Mount takes visitors back to an era when George Washington was serving America as its first president.

Robinson added, “We were learning the basics –– it’s so important.”

The day began with a play depicting a short story of Wilder’s life and square dancing.

Four fourth-grade classes performed a dance for one of the songs: “Red Barn Mixer,” “Old Dan Tucker,” “Oh, Susanna” and “Buffalo Gals.”

Rosemary Talley directed the square dances in front of about 300 to 400 parents.

Since Lotts’ beginning, Kathryn Alexander has been organizing the event. The event began when she taught at Sequoyah Elementary before Lotts was built in 1993.

One year, when Alexander held the event at Sequoyah, Melissa Gilbert, the actress who grew up playing the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder on the TV show “Little House on the Prairie,” came to visit.

To prepare for the packed day of events, fourth grade students study westward expansion and the beginning of pioneer life.

“This brings it home for [the students],” Alexander said.

Expert quilter Sybil Byrd, butter churner Barbara Walker, fiddler Natalie Kimbro and woodcarvers Jack Rice and Danny Jordan shared their prairie-time presentations with the students. All were volunteers.

Gilliland Farm provided wagon rides in Lotts’ front circle.

Background education on Wilder was shared through a video and Web site devoted to Wilder and her stories.

Before the day was done, parents, volunteers, teachers and students gathered on Lotts’ grassy lawn for a “Little House Family Picnic.”

Wilder’s books on frontier life have been translated into more than 40 languages world wide.


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