Happy birthday, West Virginia!

Agnes Hapka

October 25, 2013

NEW HAVEN — This year marks West Virginia’s 150th birthday, and students at New Haven Elementary celebrated with some hands-on learning about the state’s agricultural, musical and crafting traditions.

Shayla Blackshire, fourth-grade teacher at the school, said that she wanted to do something special for the sesquicentennial, so she and some other teachers got together and had a brainstorming session.

“We came up with the idea of having Heritage Day,” Blackshire said. “We decided to have some stations set up for the kids to visit and learn.”

She said that she and the other teachers felt that since agriculture was such an important part of West Virginia’s tradition, some of the stations should relate to that.

“We had a butter-making station, and a cross-cut saw, and soap-making,” Blackshire said.

Black added that music was an integral part of the traditions handed down from generation to generation. A local singer and musician, Robin Kissinger, sang and played humorous folk songs for students.

“We have stories from our music. So music is a very big part of our heritage,” Blackshire said.

In a similar vein, students visited a story-telling station.

“The traditions and the history are more relevant to the students this way, because they’re learning in a hands-on environment,” said Blackshire. “I think they’ve enjoyed themselves. I think this is a positive experience for the school.”

Blackshire’s father, Delton Huffman, brought his corn sheller and lard-press to the school, to show students how feed for cattle and chickens was traditionally made from corn and corn-cobs. The lard-press, he said, was used in the kitchen to extract grease for cooking.

“It’s all about agricultural traditions,” Huffman said.

Blackshire said that she was grateful for the cooperation she got in setting up the stations and the day.

“If it hadn’t been for the other teachers this wouldn’t have been possible,” she said. “I’m so glad everyone was able to work together and make this day happen.”