- HI 201 Great Plains Experience
- Instructor Introduction
- Tsistsistas Digital Media Archive
- Learning Projects
- Northwest Kansas Learning Resources
- Photo Gallery
The Great Plains Experience provides a comprehensive overview of the historical geography of the Great Plains. Focus includes inventories of local culture and history landmarks with emphasis on interdisciplinary curriculum development. An in-depth purview of educational delivery techniques, experiential learning strategies, and mentoring are also presented. Students are intergenerational learners of local and international scope and origins.
Undergraduate credits available by enrolling in HI 201 Great Plains Experience at Colby Community College Summer 2009.
Graduate credits available by enrolling with Friends University through Diana Weiland.
For more information ask:
Dr. Lin Davis-Stephens, Instructor, 785-460-5528
Dr. Lin Davis-Stephens, Instructor
About Dr. Lin Davis-Stephens
Preparatory education: Wichita State University, (Master of Arts/Anthropology), Wichita State University, (Bachelor of Anthropology/Spanish, Magna Cum Laude with Honors), Wichita State University, (Degree Candidate/Elementary & Secondary Education); Legal education:Washburn University (Juris Doctor). Certificate: Visiting Scholar Certificate, Kansas State Board of Education.
Community Activities: National Park Service, Kansas State Historical Society, Prairie Museum of Art and History, Thomas County Historical Society, Jennings Heritage Associates, Oral Interviews, Kansas Folklore Society, Service Learning Archival Materials, Kansas Anthropological Association, High Plains Chapter, Special Collections Library.
Fieldwork: Spanish Interviews, Norton Correctional Facility, Restoration/Preservation Projects, Central High Plains, Action Anthropology/Archeology, Western Plains Region.
Selected Works in Media and Print: include Linda Davis-Stephens' Collection, Prairie Museum of Art and History; Summary, Nomination and Comprehensive Survey Reports, National Park Service, Cheyenne Action Archeology Tenth Millennium Series, Local History and Culture Documentaries, Theses, Sustainable Agriculture Policy, Central Plains Region, Mock Farm Mediation.
Positions held: President Hispanic American Law Student Association, Principal, West Plains Academy, Attorney with emphasis in Criminal/Environmental Law, Conflict Resolution, and International Law.
Classes taught: Forensic Anthropology, Criminal Justice Forum, Juvenile Justice, Homeland Security, Loss Prevention and Private Security, Judicial Functions, Corrections, Criminal Procedure, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminology, Great Plains Experience, World Regional Geography, American Frontier Literature, Spanish, Government, World Religions, Anthropology, Women’s Studies, Native American Cultures, Friends University—Conflict Resolution, Business Ethics, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Management & Leadership.
Message from the Tsistsistas-Cheyenne Arrow Keeper, Edward Red Hat, I, To All students.
At this time I am going to tell you in a good way
these things that are good,
the life and the learning of things.
All these that want to learn all that got their ears open,
the way in front of your life, and you yourselves,
you are going to learn your language good;
and you are going to make use out of these things;
and it is going to be good;
and it is going to help you. nitataeheewostanehevsto.
Wherever you are going to use this
it is going to be easy for you all
in your education. hoostonewastinehenon
Maheo will know what you are all doing,
will help you in what you are going to do. maheonhishpeve
These things won't be difficult;
and you won't run into problems;
you won't be stopped,
you will be able to solve them. saaeheehotoanatanohomstae.
The education, the life in front of you,
and all the people of the universe will know;
and it will carry you a long ways in the future. nidaanenehowedanowo.
From generation to generation you learn
you catch what they try to tell you;
you know it; you go a long ways. saaesishahesehotoana
Maheo will know what you are all doing,
will help you all in what you are going to do;
you will have an easy time of it. naamon.
Do not forget in your learning to be thinking
the creator, the maker of these things. maheoseeni'nonishaahenstoweseen
Whenever you find anything difficult,
prayer will get you through. etdonishevisewoestanehevsto
Posted from the web by Sam Munderloh
This video protrays the strong relationship between man and animal working hard together as a team to do a task that must be done on the farm.
Personal Oral History Interviews by Becca Theimer, June 2009
History of Grainfield Opera House Construction Produced by Heather Flavin, June 2009
Carol Dawn Johnson presents this introduction to plant life indigenous to the short grass prairie/high plains.
Great Plains Experience II
Teaching Colby by Sally Toth
Students of all ages, as well as adults, will benefit from exposure to their local and regional history. Regardless of age, it is important to develop a personal connection with and awareness of one’s surroundings and community so as to feel a sense of belonging, both in a physical and emotional way. Everyone must be able to position himself or herself in his or her home, community, region, and country, and ultimately the world and the universe to develop a sense of place.
Sally Toth has successfully compiled a number of worthwhile educational activities in Teaching Colby that can be easily adapted to meet the instructional needs of a wide range of students as they attempt to learn more about the place in which they live. Her activity plans readily show that learning about a community includes gathering information about people, places, and events. She offers a number of cross-curricular suggestions on introducing the built environment of Colby, historical personalities, and local businesses through interesting, meaningful activities. Many of her suggestions could also be used as a springboard in the development of a more in-depth, project-based curriculum. For example, older students might find it interesting to study architectural or artistic influences of the time period (arches, columns, decorative details, stonework, etc.) in relation to existing structures, or they might choose to research the genealogies of current business owners whose families have long been a part of the Colby community. Middle school students might do a photographic inventory of the current businesses and conduct personal written/oral interviews with their owners. Following a downtown walking tour, younger children could create a large, colorful mural based on the Colby panorama on craft paper for a hall display or outside on the playground with colored chalk.
Not being a Thomas County native, I have found it fascinating to travel to the area landmarks, especially those in the county. I have often heard others mention many of the places we have visited, and now I can better visualize the setting of the stories they have shared. It is interesting to note that many people who are lifelong residents of the area have probably never traveled to these sites, oftentimes thinking they must travel great distances to find interesting destinations. This speaks to the fact that educating our area youth to the rich history of their surroundings is truly important in helping them to build lifelong connections.
Teaching Colby paper
I enjoyed the Teaching Colby book very much. I am not a native of Colby and I’m always amazed at how people who have lived here a long time know and reference places in town by who lived or worked there and by what used to be in that spot. I simply don’t have that reference or know all the families that have lived in Colby forever. In western Kansas it seems people are more connected to their roots and history that in many other places. We have to work to stress the importance of being connected to our students. People are not as naturally connected to places or people as much as they used to be and we are missing something if we let this slip away.
I’m glad the addresses are included in the building section of the book; it’s interesting for kids (and adults for that matter) to know what is located in that spot now. It’s fascinating to know that Palace Drug is still in the same place and looks very similar to how it was in the past, even after all this time. On the other hand, you can consider the beautiful Opera House and learn that it used to be where Love’s is located right now. Losing the Opera House and gaining Love’s, a building that is not nearly as historic or interesting, doesn’t seem to be a fair trade. However, it does give you the opportunity to discuss with kids the idea of preservation and why we should guard these parts of our history. It would be interesting to find out what buildings the students would consider worthy of saving and what they think could be torn down to make room for something new.
The buildings on Franklin we observed and learned about in our book have a lot more character than newer buildings in Colby. I have a drawing lesson where I have the students sketch historic buildings in Colby. The students draw pictures of these buildings; working on using perspective and shading to create the illusion of three-dimensional space. When they choose the picture they want to use they often how many questions about the buildings. Where is this building in Colby? Is it still standing or has it been torn down? What business does the building hold? I plan to use the information in Teaching Colby and do some additional research to provide my students with this community history they are interested in. The lesson is primarily an art lesson but emphasizing the history in the buildings will only enhance the experience for the students.
I also enjoyed the information on important people in the history of Colby on the bookmarks. It would be interesting to interview people now and see what Colby folks they think would be worthy of a bookmark today. I think I will be able to use the information on J.R. Colby the most. I would like to reference him when I talk about settlement patterns since he was the person the town was named after when it was created. I thought the information in Teaching Colby was presented in a simple enough form for my primary students and it gave me a great place to start so I can enhance some of my current lessons.
Great Plains Experience II
Lady Doctor on a Homestead by Bernice Larson Webb
As I read the pages of Lady Doctor on a Homestead, I found it easy to place myself in Auntie May Hay’s place as she made her mark on the northwest Kansas prairie. Not being a pioneer by any stretch of the imagination, I kept thinking about my own experience of moving two hundred miles from home at the age of 21 when I took my first teaching job after college graduation. It was a time of both excitement and trepidation for me; a new chapter in my life story. I had such high expectations of what I would experience and accomplish. Enthusiastic, but naïve, I knew without a doubt that I was ready to finally test my wings and make a difference in the lives of my students.
Mary Amelia Hay was already 48 years old when she moved hundreds of miles from her home in Pennsylvania after burying her sister and terminally ill mother. Along with her aging father and two young foster children, she made her way across the Kansas prairie. Like me, she must have experienced feelings of apprehension as she anticipated what lay ahead. At this point in her story, I was already amazed by this extraordinary woman’s personal strength, courage, and fortitude. As her saga continued and she faced countless challenges, disappointments, adversities, and setbacks, I marveled at her continued perseverance and resilience despite all of these hardships.
Always willing to do what needed to be done, Mary Amelia Hay never hesitated to provide a service or meet a need for others in her life. Her example embodied true responsibility and selflessness as she constantly strove to provide for the well-being of others through her tireless work as a mother, daughter, teacher, nurse, preacher, farmer, postmistress, community leader, or friend. Prairie fires, threats of Indian advances, and deaths of young children from diseases she was powerless to heal all failed to daunt her determination or discourage her from forging ahead.
Modern day professional career women could not compete with Mary Amelia in terms of her personal vision, inner motivation, and independence. Her many achievements and successes indicated her high level of intelligence. She was clearly a woman ahead of her time. Her neighbors knew her as a confident, competent woman who sincerely believed she could do anything.
The fact that Mary Amelia Hay’s vision for Otterbourne was never realized, despite her tireless efforts to build the community, left me with a genuine sadness as I came to the conclusion of her story. Much like losing her beloved Ona at a very young age, Auntie May also lost her dream of a flourishing prairie town on the peaceful Sappa River when she was forced to return to Pennsylvania with poor health and eventually lose her much-loved homestead.
As we traveled throughout the area to Otterbourne, Tully, Hawkeye, Cumberland, and Shiboleth, where little evidence remains of the early settlement days of the Hay family, I came to the realization that the business of building thriving towns in Kansas in the late 1880s was indeed a difficult and risky one. It involved great investments of money, time, and dedication. Undoubtedly, the Hays and their fellow homesteaders had the heart and the courage to build communities. What they lacked was the power to control the forces of nature and the path of the railroads. The cooperative efforts of these early Kansas settlers were just not enough to build competitive towns that could survive.
Lady Doctor on a Homestead would be an excellent book to read aloud and share with almost any age students. With appropriate pre-reading activities, meaningful discussion, and questioning throughout the reading, even children in the lower primary grades would enjoy this story and benefit from the local historical material it presents. Possible general themes that might be used as extensions for additional study could include homesteading, railroads, immigration/cultural and religious diversity, diseases, early Kansas schools, prairie foods, pioneer games and crafts, prairie holidays and celebrations. Younger students would enjoy a rotation of learning centers, such as making a cornhusk doll, playing checkers, shelling corn, or churning butter. Intermediate students in smaller cooperative learning groups could research any of the study topics and compile reports that could be presented to the entire class. Examples for projects might include researching the Homestead Act, diagramming how to build a sod house, locating all of the early schools in the county, researching family genealogies, or designing a simple quilt. All ages of students could write journals from the viewpoint of any of the people in the book, or draw portraits of Auntie May, LaMar, Isaac, or Ona based on the description given in the book. All of these activities should help the students make lasting, personal connections with these amazing people who once lived where they now live, while helping them gain an appreciation for all those brave souls who settled western Kansas and help make it what it is today.
Lady Doctor on a Homestead paper
When I finished reading Lady Doctor on a Homestead my first impression was that the title is misleading. Mary Amelia Hay’s contribution was much more than just giving medical assistance, although she did that. Her gift to this area was as a community builder. Even though her community of Otterbourne didn’t last, she understood the intangible factors that make a community and she imparted these ideas onto all the people she came across in her experiences.
The first thing that must be noted is her strength of character and her determination. Not very many women relished the idea of leaving their civilized lives for life on the harsh prairie. Even fewer women would dare to do it without a male provider to accompany them; but that’s exactly what she did. She did have males within her family, her adopted son Isaac and her father, but they were too young or too old respectively to provide all the protection or help in securing the resources a family would need. Working together LaMar and Auntie May each claimed a homestead and built a sod house to begin the process to own their land. With a determination that some would consider unusual in a woman; she set after her goals and had the right spirit to achieve them. Proof of this fact might be found in the fact that she took 12 years off her age during the move and no one even thought the question the fact.
The book notes that Auntie May gave the community it’s name, “Otterbourne” and became its first citizen and caretaker( p 15). The first need she saw was a communication need. Mary Hay realized her community was cut off from the rest of the world and immediately took it upon herself to fix it. She applied to establish a post office in her home and the Otterbourne Post Office was underway in the week of January 1,1881. (p.17) Once the post office was established, it became the norm for people to gather to socialize and meet the mail. Auntie May’s soddy became a center for social entertainment. Though not as vital as a roof over your head, the need for social interaction is necessary in a community and Mary Amelia Hay fulfilled this need for the residents of Otterbourne.
A second need that Auntie May filled for her community was the need for medical assistance. A community cannot function without quality medical care a reasonable distance away. In her typical fashion, Auntie May saw a need and she filled it. She became the nurse, midwife and eventually, alongside her Uncle George, the physician for the community (p 20). She later would work with Dr. William M. Beaver. Mary Hay didn’t have a medical diploma but it those times many men and women practiced medicine without a degree. The important fact to note is that her neighbors trusted her. She was called on often for her service and came to be known as “Dr Hay” or “Dr. Auntie May”.
Mary Hay’s next focus for her community was to meet it’s spiritual needs. Though not necessary for survival; communities all have a spiritual aspect to them and Auntie May set out to put her stamp on it. She felt the need was great for the young children and greatly desired to start a Sunday school and church but she had no money. Not being deterred by that small fact, she set out to find assistance. She wrote her friend back home, Mrs. L. T. Davison, of her need and the ball was set in motion. Mrs. Davison was apparently just as determined as Auntie May; she immediately began to send Bibles, prayer books, hymnals and other books. Mary Hay also contacted the Right Reverend Thomas Hubbard Vail at Topeka who was bishop of the diocese. He sent books for her mission and gave Mary Hay the privileges of a lay preacher (p 30). She set up her new school, the Lewis Drexel Davison Mission School, and became to meet the spiritual needs of her community. As well as preaching, Auntie May also took on the other responsibilities of a minister such a christenings and funerals. Although she later closed the mission, she was the first to bring organized religion to the area.
Being a teacher, Mary Hay soon felt the need to meet the educational needs of her town. Her elementary classes began in the fall of 1882 (p 41). She taught in her home and once she had established her elementary curriculum she moved up to high school level classes. Auntie May had some live-in students because they had to travel great distances to go to school. Because of her experience, she was soon asked to be a deputy superintendent of schools. Working closely with G.E. Stevens, they made great improvements in the set up of education in the area ( p 49).
Even though she had many other pursuits, Mary Hay also was determined to create the physical borders for her town. She worked to acquire land and even had a town plot drawn up. She was hopeful that the railroad would come through and put her little town of Otterbourne on the map. But her hopes were doomed to be disappointed. In the spring of 1888 a railroad went to Colby but not one approached Otterbourne (p 83). She had gambled on acquiring land but the burden became too much and she had to mortgage a great deal of it. Also, with her failing health she had other issues to worry about. Mary Hay would be forced to leave the frontier which she loved so much. She would go back to Pennsylvania and her influence in Otterbourne would be gone. It was a sad to see things end that way and the book ends with an accurate statement: “Too quickly the frontier forgets its heroines.” (p 110).
Clearly this book has many topics of study for students to use. The first I would point out would be that Mary Hay is an example of a strong female who took on unique leadership roles that would normally be reserved for men in this time period. I would also discuss the needs of a community that Auntie May was able to recognize and provide. She was truly a community builder. Social interaction, religious concerns, medical care and education are all needs that every community has; Mary Hay recognized them and provided each one herself to her town of Otterbourne. Lastly, I would discuss the fact that despite even the toughest will, there are some things that can’t be overcome. Mary Hay couldn’t control the railroad or her health and she lost the battle with both of those things. We still don’t realize truly how hard life on the prairie was for the first settlers. Survival took great physical and emotional strength that very few had. This book provided information in a truthful manner with the interesting twist of being seen from a female’s point of view.
Great Plains Experience II
This website offers an excellent overview of early settlement on the High Plains. It covers the connection with the Native Americans, the building of the railroad, and the significance of the Homestead Act. I also found the grade level curriculum guide (partial list below) helpful in knowing which topics were appropriate as I planned learning activities for my target age group. I have included the Social Studies guide, but the Science, Language Arts, and Math guides also offer additional connections, such as the study of common birds, trees, and flowers; weather and climate; writing short, original stories and poems; and measurement, including area and perimeter. The site also offers direct links to other related web sites.
Grade 3 Curriculum Guide
Social Studies (Partial list)
- Native Americans
- Explorers and pioneers
- History and development of local community
- Shelters of animals and people
- History and development of transportation
- Basic human needs and wants
- Local geography and topography
- U. S. geography and regions
- Flat maps and globes
The Prairie Museum of Art & History website is an excellent source for information on local settlement history, sod houses, railroads, and the Homestead Act of 1862. It offers related photographs, actual diary entries, documents, and other supporting materials. It is a valuable resource for teachers, but it is also a great site for students, as well. The explanations are well-written and laid out in an easily understood manner for even younger learners to explore independently.
(Web video about the history and preservation of the American bison in North America. Students can see firsthand the importance of bison in the history of the High Plains for both the Native Americans and the settlers, both in the past and the present.)
(This link offers an “older” video depicting the day-to-day experiences of a pioneer family as they make their journey to the Midwestern plains in a covered wagon. Students should enjoy the short, live-action video clip as they research settlement on the High Plains.)
(This is a fun, interactive site where students can actually “build a sod house.” Information about the “how” and “why” of building a sod house is offered along with the actual, sequential building process. It also uses the concept of a timeline as a graphic organizer in the page header which helps children grasp the concept of the time period, then and now. )
I have created a powerpoint narrative story that involves the history and development of the settlement of Nicodemus. If you are interested in using this research, please contact the Prairie Museum of History in Colby, KS>
These four websites are places I found additional information on Nicodemus, Kansas.
Thomas County Schools
Thomas County had 94 School Districts. Of these 94 districts only Rexford/Selden, Brewster and Colby remain in operation today. The first school in Thomas County was District #1 Anna Colby(established April 1882-and lasted until 1885). It was located about three miles south of the present site of Colby. Otterbourne was established in 1883 and was in operation until 1946. Hopewell District #9 was established in 1886 and existed for 40 years before it was closed and the students transferred to District #88 or Rexford.
Researching Thomas County Schools could become a class project and add valuable resources to the Museum's collection. For more information and examples on this project contact the Prairie Musuem of History.
Hopewell District #9 in Wendell Township Thomas County Kansas was formed in 1886 and remained open for fourty years. It was finally closed in 1946 and the students were sent to the Rexford school.