Local 4th-graders make history
The Arizona Daily Star
May 1, 2003
Ernesto Portillo Jr.
Ellen Murphy's fourth-grade students from Davis Bilingual Magnet School were
getting their hands dirty Tuesday morning. It was hands-on learning of local
history, a good kind of dirty, and the kids were loving it.
"Oh yeah," said Analisa Rodríguez, 10, which in kidspeak is a loud endorsement
for this yearlong project involving research, field trips, lectures, writing and
The students were putting the final touches on historical exhibits they designed
and created to feature Tucson's multicultural past.
"Cultural Currents /Corrientes Culturales" is a collaboration involving Davis,
the Tucson Unified School District, Arizona State Museum and the city's Rio
It will have a free public showing 4-6:30 p.m. Monday at the Arizona State
Museum's south building, near the university's main entrance on North Park
Beth DeWitt, Arizona State Museum education program coordinator, called the
Davis project unique for the time and intensity that the fourth-grade students
brought to their work.
Since the start of the school year, Murphy's students have immersed themselves
in Tucson's history.
The 21 students, in groups of three, used the Internet, read books, listened to
speakers and traveled to historical sites in and around Tucson to gather the
Then they crafted museum displays, using Arizona State Museum artifacts as well
as items borrowed from friends and family.
"They have amazed me at how well they have learned and how much they have
remembered," said Murphy, an 18-year teacher at Davis, near West St. Mary's Road
and Interstate 10.
One benefit from the project is the many lessons they learned from it - in
language arts and math as well as history, she said.
"I knew the kids would learn better by doing this project," said Murphy.
Quizzing the students showed they were quick with their answers. A few sounded
like experienced museum docents.
"The Paleoindians were the first people in Tucson. They were hunter-gatherers,"
said Bobby Camacho, 9.
Bobby's trio, which included Chelsea Haro, 10, and Rachel Cocío, 9, organized a
display on the valley's first inhabitants. These were the mammoth-hunting
Paleoindians and the Hohokam, Tucson's first farmers, who developed an
irrigation system of ditches drawing water from the Santa Cruz River.
At a display on the Yoeme, three boys were tweaking parts to make sure it looked
"Yoeme? Who are they," the boys were asked.
"They are Yaquis. That's what they call themselves," said Anthony Chávez. He had
worked with Francisco Lanz and Rubén Maravilla.
Their display contained two Pahkola masks the boys made, patterned after the
traditional dress that Yoeme dancers don during their annual Easter dance
ceremonies. The display also contained a hand-drawn replica of the Yoeme flag,
brightly colored paper flowers to symbolize blessings and clay musical
instruments hand-twisted by the boys.
The other students are Damian Carbajal, Vivian Colter, Briana Cuestas, Jorge
García, Hailey Hagan, Kimberly Harrimon, Alex Layman, Francisco López, Nora
Maldonado, Victoria Parker, Gabriela Rincón, Alexis Rodríguez, Abriana Romero
and Andrea Sánchez.
We can rest a little easier about preserving Tucson's past with so many young
historians so dedicated to the task.
* Contact Ernesto Portillo Jr. at 573-4242 or e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. He's on
"Arizona Illustrated," KUAT-TV, Channel 6, at 6:30 p.m. and