Some of the Tucumcari Historical Research Institute board members had quite an experience Wednesday morning when 175 students from Tucumcari Elementary School toured the museum to see the Smithsonian Exhibit, as well as some of the items belonging to the institute.
Just watching those youngsters and their teachers was a major treat for a former student at Central School and a former teacher. Seeing them line up before entering the building was most reminiscent of the past when we would prepare to enter that building as students. Obviously, I was seeing teachers and students of the past as well as those of the present and probably shouldn’t been drawing any comparisons, but that was part of the fun. Many of the current students appeared to be just as eager to learn as we had been and were certainly just as lively. At a glance, I could identify the liveliest ones and was drawn to them because the mischief dancing in their eyes just naturally made me want to know more about them. Although they might have wanted to cause a little trouble, they were the ones who made the life of a teacher so very rewarding. Perhaps I always preferred the rowdy ones because I had been one of them and knew what fun we could both have in a classroom.
Quite a few had questions about what they were viewing and really needed more than the brief time allotted in order to begin to appreciate the past and to learn just a little about it. For the most part, their manners were certainly as obvious as was their eagerness to learn. Some of the quieter ones seemed to enjoy hearing a few words about some of the exhibits and would have warmed up to real conversation had time permitted.
Of course, observing the teachers was also an experience. Several were as friendly as were their students and were obviously interested in helping their students. They took the time to points out various items of interest and to be sure that all were behaving properly in such surroundings. I could picture them in their classrooms and could see their eagerness to teach and to learn along with their students. They were most definitely in charge and were respected by their young charges.
Although ours is a very small museum, it provides the opportunity for young people to learn about their immediate past and to learn how to visit the well-known museums through the world. It gives them a chance to learn the manners expected in such places and how to approach learning about the importance of exhibits. It should be a place that becomes as familiar to them as their classrooms because it is a collection of classrooms filled with memorabilia of their ancestors. It should be a place to which they return frequently in order to add to their education.
Having been privileged to visit a number of well-known museums in other parts of the world, I have had the opportunity to watch other young children standing in awe in front of exhibits while taking notes and even sketching what they were seeing. They were very comfortable in their surroundings because they were accustomed to visiting those museums from the time they could remember. Our area students have the same opportunity to be just as knowledgeable and as comfortable in such surroundings. With a little help, they could be prepared to visit those other museums and to know much about them before even entering the doors.
We should encourage our young people to spend time in our museums and show them that learning about the past can be great fun as they prepare for the future. More than a few minutes would be needed, however.