Students delve into history during Scopes Festival activity

Students delve into history during Scopes Festival activity

June 8th, 2011 by Kimberly McMillian in News

Noah Varner, 10, visited the Rhea County Courthouse with his brother Nate and dad Bradley on Saturday. Rhea students, participating in the Scopes Heritage Festival's first "History Within Us" youth oral history project, toured the courthouse as their initial assignment.

Photo by Kimberly McMillian /Times Free Press.

DAYTON, Tenn. - Ten-year-old Noah Varner wants to learn about well-known people he's studied in school for the Scopes Heritage Festival's youth oral history project, "History Within Us."

"I like history," Noah said with a smile.

He said he wanted to learn about "the real famous people and what they did."

Becky Tucker, a former teacher and project coordinator, said she wanted the Rhea Elementary and Middle School students to start with 1920s history, which includes the 1925 Scopes Trial, but also to learn about the people of Rhea County and their stories. The project also involves conversations with senior citizens in the area.

Noah's knowledge of Dayton's involvement with the trial was limited. He knew that "the guy who founded Bryan [College]" was part of the trial, referring to prosecutor William Jennings Bryan.

Bradley Varner said he wanted his son to learn about Dayton's history and "why they call it 'Monkey Town.'"

The trial featured local teacher John Scopes, whose curriculum included readings on evolution.

Anna Tromanhauser, executive director of MainStreet Dayton, which sponsors the project, said getting students and senior citizens together will become an annual part of the festival.

Tucker said the students learned about interviewing people at instructional workshops Tuesday, and they will have two weeks to gather information before they report their findings at the Rhea County Welcome Center on June 21.

She said the idea to feature a history activity for the youth stemmed from a teacher's meeting years ago. A teacher's remark that "nothing ever happens around here" prompted her to find a way to challenge that outlook by encouraging others to research and learn about their hometowns.

She said she wanted to help students understand their heritage and how they can contribute to it.

For more information about the schedule of events for participants, call MainStreet Dayton at 423-775-9847.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at