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With small teepees in front of him, 10-year-old Weston Hofeldt proudly described his Heritage Day project as a great learning experience.
The Neligh-Oakdale fourth-grader was among the nearly two dozen students sharing their project and family heritage during the annual event on Friday afternoon, which coincided with Nebraska’s birthday.
“I enjoyed the knowledge,” Hofeldt said. “I got to know what the Poncas did.”
Hofeldt and his mother, Aleacia Rix, built the display with teepees, animals, Native Americans and shrubbery. Rix said the project had its share of challenges, but they enjoyed working together building the display.
“We went with the Ponca Tribe because the Trail of Tears goes through Neligh,” she said. “They were a tribe from around this area, and he also wanted to make a teepee.”
Fourth-grade teachers Rick Eickholt and Darcy Metschke walked from table to table on Friday encouraging their students to share what they learned about the family history and details on the items they brought.
“Part of it is being able to self-teach a little bit and find some additional information about an area of interest,” Eickholt said. “Beyond that, the concept of Heritage Day is learning the importance of family history and their relatives. Those who combined — to me — are the most important parts of Heritage Day.”
The items varied between students. Common themes included military memorabilia, like the uniforms Hofeldt had on display. Lots of family photos and artifacts filled the tables. Many students showcased family trees, antique toys and primitive tools from their ancestors.
“This is an old lemon squeezer,” Hofeldt said as he demonstrated how to use the wooden tool before moving onto the next item. “And my great-great-grandfather was a blacksmith, and me made this tool.”
Rix said they both learned more about their family history, including that her great-grandfather was a blacksmith. She said the project was educational for her, as well.
Eickholt, who has spearheaded Heritage Day for the last 32 years, it never ceases to amaze him how much work the families put in creating the projects and delving into their history.
“It’s a lot of work,” Eickholt said. “One of the most enjoyable parts for me is when they share something and have the sparkle in their eyes. To see how excited they are to share things is special.”