Trail of Tears Commemorative Park
and Heritage Center
Hopkinsville, KentuckySummary/About the Location | Teachers Guide | Sample Trip Outline
PLANNING TIP: Videotape your day at the park. Then, back in the classroom, give your students an opportunity to respond to the field trip activities they performed.
Description of Field Trip
The Trail of Tears Park is a little-known Kentucky treasure that provides students with a combination indoor/outdoor field trip location at which it is possible to incorporate history, nature, and the arts. The benefit to students at this venue is that they have an opportunity to see firsthand the consequences of the so-called Trail of Tears for the Cherokee nation.
The dramatic nature of the Cherokee experience on the Trail of Tears is one that students can explore in mime, tableau, spoken word, and ceremonial (including dance) activities. Visual art activities can also be introduced into the event. Giving students opportunities to act out traditional Cherokee myths and legends, as well as stories from the Trail of Tears, gives them not only experience with the elements of performance, but also a chance to use their imaginations to re-create the experiences of another culture.
The key to making this field trip work is to determine how many (or few) activities you can reasonably accomplish with the time that you have and the number of students and parent chaperones available to you. For example, older students may be able to develop and perform several scenes in small-group work, while younger students would benefit from one or two scenes and/or formal dances in which they all have a role. While it is a more rounded experience to include multiple art forms (e.g., making a dreamcatcher, writing a poem, performing a scene, learning a ceremonial dance), if each of these is so rushed that there is no time for reflection, you will be better off selecting one or two activities that the students can really spend time on. Evaluating the day can be accomplished through written reflections back in the classroom and a pre- and post-field trip test to assess vocabulary and content.
PLANNING TIP: Before or after the field trip, show students the video of master storyteller Marilou Awiatka telling the traditional Cherokee story Little Deer and Mother Earth from the Storytelling Sampler in the Drama Arts Toolkit. Program 7 of the KET series Telling Tales also includes contextual background and discussion.
Ideally, students should prepare for this field trip by learning about the Cherokee culture in the classroom. A good resource for learning about the history and culture of the Cherokee is the www.cherokee.org web site, which includes a student section. Reading Cherokee myths and legends should also be part of the preparation; books include Two Bad Boys and many compilations of Native American stories. After reading the stories, students can begin to create short scenes through improvisation, adpating the story that theyve heard, and creating dialogue from the narrative. The Hopkinsville park also has a number of resources that can be used in the classroom, including information about tribal dress, dances, and the Cherokee alphabet.
Back in the classroom, follow-up activities can include adapting traditional stories, myths, and legends from African culture (or other cultures included in the Core Content) into plays. This project reinforces the use of drama to enhance reading. Students can also write personal narratives of what the Trail of Tears experience might have been like, based on the information they learned at the park.
Expanding the Idea
Many field trip locations can be used as backdrops for dramatizations of the stories of the people who once lived there and the context of the venue. Re-creating a Native American-specific field trip would mean finding another location rich in the history of a particular tribe or family. Many other historic homes and sites also have stories to tell about our Commonwealth that can enrich classroom work and come alive through the use of drama, dance, and the other arts.