TSHA presents Texas History Challenge, a great new tool for the classroom! Each month, students and adults can test their Texas history knowledge by playing three online quizzes on various topics. Teachers can register their students and track their progress in the online dashboard, or register as an adult and play the game to compete for prizes. Through the teacher dashboard, you can register your whole class, check the progress of your students, see how they answered, or play together in the classroom. Play today!
2018 marks the 300th anniversary of San Antonio. To commemorate the occasion, the Alamo presents the Tricentennial Educator Workshop Series. The series of workshops will cover the eras of Texas History from 1400-1836. Specifically, the series will focus on the significant role of the Alamo over the 300 years of San Antonio history. The intended audience for each workshop is educators and CPE credit hours are offered at each event. The events are filled on a first come, first served basis. Registration is required. The next workshop is on March 10th, 2018 is titled “Colonization & the Texas Revolution: 1821 – 1836”. For registration information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
Fort McKavett State Historic Site hosted the grand reopening of their Visitor’s Center and Museum this month. Interactive exhibits, audio and visual displays, and an entirely new gift shop are just a few things visitors have to look forward to. The history of the 150 year old West Texas fort includes Native American Settlement, Military Operation, and Civilian Occupation. Visitors to the site can visit restored structures such as the officer's quarters, barracks, hospital, dead house, sink, post headquarters, and school house, as well as, see the ruins of other buildings on the site. For directions and event information, see TeachingTexas.org.
Few people would disagree that Texas has a colorful past. But, lesser known is the story of the railroad’s profound impact on the state. The Museum of the American Railroad, located in Frisco, is uniquely poised to tell this story using its vast collection of railroad artifacts as tangible evidence. Whether you are a casual visitor or student on a field trip, the experience will leave you enlightened and entertained.
The history of the railroad is indelibly woven into the fabric of our nation. The American railroad has touched every aspect of our lives and participated in historical events that have shaped the world. Texas railroads began in earnest along the Gulf Coast near Houston, but were largely paper organizations prior to the Civil War. In the decades immediately following the war, rail lines crossed the state establishing commerce along the way. The story of this growth, including the spread of cultures, establishment of communities, and the agricultural & industrial trade, has its roots in the railroad.
The Museum of the American Railroad, while national in scope in terms of its collection and programming, is uniquely poised to tell the story of the railroad on a local level in Frisco. This extends from the creation of the town as a water stop for the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railroad in 1902, to the city’s role in the state’s vast network of rail lines. Local schools have discovered the value of including the story of Texas railroads in their curriculum. Field trip programs range from an introductory Field to Factory presentation for third graders, to seventh grade programs with an emphasis on specific Texas history subjects.
Telling the Local Story
In fact, the North Texas region, now approaching seven million in population, owes its beginnings to the coming of the railroad. In 1872, the Houston & Texas Central line reached Dallas as it built toward the Red River. A year later, the Texas & Pacific Railway intersected the H&TC in Dallas, the product of skillful maneuvering by local politicians. Dallas found itself at the junction of two major rail lines traversing all four quadrants of the compass. This was followed by a period of rapid growth, unprecedented for a city without a river or seaport.
“…my trip was not in vain, Dallas is a bright young town, full of promise.”
These words were recorded in a letter by an early traveler upon his arrival in Dallas in 1873. His journey was by train. The words would ring true, as Dallas soon became the center for commerce in the Southwest. The Museum of the American Railroad’s programs chronicle this history through the presentation of artifacts and programming tailored to school curricula.
A New Venue
The Museum of the American Railroad anchors the City of Frisco’s emerging cultural district. This fast-growing community is at the epicenter of the latest population and economic boom in North Texas. The location is geographically strategic for the Museum as it expands its programming and audience.
Following a 2013 move of the Museum’s entire collection from its 50-year 1.8-acre home in Dallas’ Fair Park, many spatial limitations were eliminated. The Museum was able to pursue its 2006 Strategic Plan, which called for significantly expanded programming and permanent structures to house and present the collection. The priceless collection of locomotives and rail cars now exceeds 60 in number and the Museum is in the midst of a capital campaign to build infrastructure on the new 15-acre Frisco site. Included in the master plan is over 6,000 feet of track, a massive period-style train shed to cover the rolling stock collection, and permanent buildings. These buildings will house indoor exhibit galleries, a grand hall for events, classrooms, archives, administration, and restoration facilities.
With nearly one-third of this massive capital project complete, the Museum already plays a significant role as a cultural tourism destination in the region. While construction continues, the Museum is open for scheduled guided tours and educational field trips. Administrative offices, indoor exhibits, and additional educational facilities are housed in the Frisco Heritage Museum just a few blocks north of the Museum’s 15-acre site.
Trains in Miniature
In addition to the Museum’s traditional offerings, a 3,000-square-foot operating model train layout is scheduled to open in the nearby Frisco Discovery Center in spring of this year. The spectacular train exhibit depicts the American Southwest from Arizona to East Texas and includes beautifully recreated scenic vignettes of the Colorado Rockies, West Texas oil fields, and a bustling 1960s downtown Dallas. A gift of the Sanders family of north Dallas, with funding from Amanda & G. Brint Ryan also of Dallas, the layout will be a truly unique and enchanting experience for visitors.
The Museum of the American Railroad plays host to America’s favorite little blue engine each year. In partnership with the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, it hosts Day Out with ThomasTM, a family event featuring a full-sized version of Thomas the Tank EngineTM along with many activities and entertainment. Now entering its 15th year, the well-patronized event is the Museum’s biggest annual fundraiser.
An Educational Gem
As part of its mission in the community, the Museum provides a variety of educational programs tailored to schools’ needs in accordance with Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) criteria. All programs were developed in response to meetings with North Texas educators and administrators. Students climb aboard select pieces of the Museum’s rolling stock collection, like first-class sleeping cars (hotels on wheels), a dining car, steam locomotives, and commuter cars. Featured pieces range from the 1920s to the present.
But why is the past so important? Establishing basic concepts of the railroad industry’s influence on culture and commerce helps students and visitors understand the importance of moving modern-day people and goods across Texas and the United States. Rail lines are all around us, and understanding why helps connect the dots and make sense of the role the United States’ rail network plays in domestic and global markets. The Museum maintains close relationships with the railroad industry, which serves as a valuable resource for teaching concepts of modern rail transportation of people and goods.
A catalog of the Museum’s educational programs is available to teachers and curriculum planners. Titled, A Nation Transformed, the publication is updated annually and features programming for grades 1 - 12. Special emphasis is placed on 3rd and 7th grade programs, which address multiple TEKS criteria.
Third grade programs introduce railroads to students using three tracks. The 2-hour program combines classroom instruction, interactive demonstrations with students, and a tour of the Museum’s rolling stock collection. Concepts include past, present, and future rail technologies, logistics, and the production & use of steam. Mapping exercises are included, which is an integral part of third grade instruction.