Part of the 4th grade history curriculum for field trips to the Marsh Creek State Park includes having students fill out a petition for a land grant like the one purchased by John Marsh in 1837. See more photos from students’ recent visits below the article.
by Rick Lemyre
JMHT Executive Director
It all started with Art Linkletter. His radio show, House Party, ran for 25 years, and had a regular segment called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Children between ages 3 and 8 would be asked to answer mundane questions, and proceed to delight the audience with cute, surprising and unexpected answers.
For Example: Q-Who was George Washington’s wife? A-Miss America.
It turns out you don’t have to be a master at interviewing kids to get them to say cute, surprising and entertaining things. You just have to give them a chance.
I was recently fortunate enough to help run some fourth-grade field trips in the Marsh Creek State Historic Park. The kids were from Ironhouse School in Oakley, and they were studying California history. Part of the lesson was for them to apply for a land grant like that John Marsh purchased in 1837 in what would one day become Brentwood.
As part of the application process, the kids were asked what plans they had for the land. Suffice it to say that things would be a lot different today if the land had ended up in their hands instead of Marsh’s.
Some drew from what they had learned about life on a mid-19th Century rancho, enhanced by their own tastes.
“I will have cows for milk and chicken for eggs and pigs for bacon because bacon is so good.” Another said she planned to raise “…sheep for wool, cows for food, also chickens for omelets.”
Others focused their ideas on nature, although they might make some changes in that regard, too.
“I will have horses, pigs, sheep, snow, rocks, rivers and a mountain,” promised one. Said another, “I will make waterfalls.”
One thought it would be good to combine ranching with a steady income stream. “There will be 200 cows, a watermelon field, 50 pigs, and an apple field,” he said. “And I plan to put in oil rigs.”
Another budding businessperson clearly had an eye for tourism, writing “I will build hotels and motels and there will be a plaza.”
Outdoor recreation was popular, too: “I will build 5 parks. 2 water parks, 1 maze park, and 2 regular parks,” said one. Another said “I will have a whole horse ranch with a circle area to teach kids and no gates to teach people to stay on trails.”
Ranching and animals of all kinds were on the mind of one youngster, who wanted “6 horses, 65 cows, 5 female chickens and 5 male chickens, 42 monkeys, 12 hippos, and a lot of flowers and butterflies and bees.”
Farming was also popular, although some of the crops were unusual. “I will plant a small house,” said one. Another had her eye on the bottom line, with a bit of fun on the side. “I will plant gold and have a huge water slide,” she said.
A couple of kids showed an understanding for the way things were in the wild, wild West. “I am going to build a shed for weapons,” he said, while a classmate noted that on his rancho, “There will be no Internet.”
Lastly, from the hope-for-the-future department, came a plan for people to live together in peace.
“I will make a town,” said the community leader-to-be. “It will have a town hall so we can discuss stuff.”
The field trip program is being created by the John Marsh Historic Trust, along with the East Contra Costa Historical Society and State Parks. The hope is that we’ll be able to offer these local, hands-on historical lessons to a steadily increasing number of students beginning next year.
The Trust is currently raising money to build an Interpretive Center in the park. The center will allow us to expand the field trip program, as well as accommodate regularly scheduled drop-in hours in the park for the first time. Please consider supporting our efforts by making a donation of any size through the PayPal link above.
Students dance during a “fiesta” at the end of their field trip to Marsh Creek State Historic Park. The trips are being put together by the John Marsh Historic Trust.
Youngsters learn how to lasso a “steer” during their visit to the Marsh Creek State Historic Park.
Learning how ropes were made in the 19th Century.
Medicine in the 19th Century is part of the history curriculum developed by the Trust for the Marsh Creek State Historic Park.