Fourth-graders in Papillion La Vista Community Schools have spent the year learning Nebraska history, and field trips to downtown Papillion have given those lessons a local focus.

The fields trips take the fourth-graders to the Portal School, Sautter House and Papillion City Hall, which was once the Sarpy County Courthouse, and they allow the students to get a sense of what life was like for previous generations of Nebraskans.

On April 18, it was Parkview Heights fourth-graders’ turn. They began the day in the Papillion City Council chambers, where Wanda Butts portrayed a pioneer woman and told stories based on her ancestors’ diaries.

The classes then split up and experienced the one-room Portal School, toured the Sautter House, which is an old farmhouse from the Papillion area, and Papillion City Hall and the jail cell, learning the history of each. Members of the Papillion Area Historical Society, local volunteers and law enforcement gave the tours and educated the students.

Debbie Allard, president of the PAHS and a former fourth-grade teacher at Tara Heights Elementary School, said the goal is to educate students about what the community was like during the pioneer days and tie together what they’ve been learning about Nebraska history throughout the year.

“For me personally it reinforces what we were learning about Nebraska back in my classroom,” she said.

“It’s firsthand information. You don’t have to look at a picture in a book, you can actually sit in a one room schoolhouse.”

Allard played the role of the teacher in the Portal school Thursday.

The field trips are funded through the Papillion La Vista Schools Foundation and the district has been taking fourth-graders on the field trip since 2001, Allard said.

During the second year of the trips, Allard said one student enjoyed the local field trip more than a trip to the State Capitol in Lincoln.

Students often visit or see the buildings for the first time on the trip.

“A lot of times they don’t realize it’s there,” Allard said.

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