If you are a student at Lanier Elementary School, don’t be late to school on Dec. 4.
Not that there is much chance of any of the students, staff or faculty being late on that day. The excitement of what is happening at Lanier on Dec. 4 has the anticipation level raised beyond that of the class Christmas party or the last day of school.
On that first Friday in December, Lanier is going on a field trip to the Museum of Appalachia in Norris. The museum will host not just a class or two from Lanier or even a whole grade level. The entire school is going -- students, teachers, administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers and office staff. Everyone with a Lanier badge is invited, and, when the 11 school buses pull out that morning with approximately 500 on the buses, the school’s gate will be locked behind them. Parents are invited to meet the students at the museum.
The field trip was made possible by two grants -- one from the Tennessee Arts Commission and one from Target. When both grants came through, principal Teresa Robinson looked at the amount and decided it would be possible to take the whole school.
There were several reasons for Robinson’s decision. One, the grants were very specific in how they could be used and the Appalachian Museum fit the bill. Two, the excitement of taking the whole school would energize the adults as well as the students. And three, these grants followed on the heels of a year where Lanier had been able to take no field trips at all.
“We did absolutely no field trips because of the economy last year,” said Robinson. “Rather than put a hardship on families, I said, ‘Let’s not do any field trips.’”
When they got the grants from Target and from the Tennessee Arts Commission, they knew they could take everyone.
“We got the grants and it snowballed,” Robinson said.
Taking the entire school on a field trip fits well into the climate at Lanier. Robinson said the feel of a true community school is alive and well at Lanier.
The school was established in 1922 and has evolved from a K-12 to K-8 and now pre-K to 5. “We have a lot of great-grandparents who are alumni,” Robinson said. “We are very rich in tradition.”
Paula McClanahan is one of the custodians at the school, and she will be going on the trip. “It’s a great place to go,” McClanahan said. “I’m sure we will have a blast.”
Teacher Susan Cupp was responsible for the paperwork that went into the Target grant. She found out about Target’s gifts to schools from a friend who works there and did the paperwork to get it going last spring.
“It was in May when we turned it in, and it was approved in June for $2,000,” Cupp said. “These grants are for cultural experiences, so it includes places like museums.”
After they got the TAC grant for $3,000, Robinson realized what it could mean to the whole school. She has already heard from many of the parents who are going to meet them at the museum.
“We have good families who always come to help,” she said. “It’s just a good community school where everybody helps out.”
In preparation for the big trip, teachers are incorporating the pioneer lifestyle into their lesson plans. Students are learning the vocabulary, history and components of day-to-day life of the early Appalachian settlers. Most of the students in the school have never been to the museum, and learning about early life has some of them scratching their heads.
In Glenda Eastridge’s room, the fourth graders learned some new vocabulary words like corn crib, smokehouse and outhouse, and then teamed up to draw what they anticipated seeing at the museum. The school will be going during the museum’s 12 Days of Christmas celebration, so the students will also get a view of what the holidays were like for pioneer families.
Andre Dakota Cash, 10, said he’s excited about the trip and said life was different for people living in Appalachia in the 1800s, the time depicted at the museum. “They didn’t have toys, and they didn’t have the same kinds of shoes,” he said.
Michael Davenport, 9, said, “They didn’t have house like us, didn’t wear the same clothes and some didn’t have shoes,” he said.
Evan McCrady, 9, said it was a different culture people lived in during the 1800s. “They probably didn’t have the same clothes we had. They probably didn’t have video games,” he said. “Maybe they threw horseshoes or played other games they made up.”
There are likely to be some surprises, too, as the students soak up the specifics of Appalachian life in pioneer days. From the comments she has heard as they explained their Appalachian drawings, Glenda Eastridge is anticipating that her students will be surprised when they see an actual outhouse.
“One of the boys was telling me about his picture, and he pointed to one structure he had drawn, identifying it as the outhouse,” Eastridge said with a laugh. “It was a Port-a-Potty.”