Silverton Students Explore And Reflect On Their Town’s Dark History Of Discrimination

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Photo: Silverton School Chinese Exhibit
A Silverton School students examines an item on loan for their exhibit about the town's historical Chinese population.

When elementary students at the Silverton School found a stone marker in the town cemetery, they were catapulted into a long-term lesson on Colorado history, race and segregation. The marker memorialized Chinese workers who were banned from burial in the cemetery, and eventually run out of town in 1902. Their teacher Whitney Gaskill helped channel their sadness at the ugly history into a series of projects.

Gaskill spoke to Colorado Matters about how her fourth and fifth grade students created an exhibit at their local museum dedicated to Silverton's Chinese population. The Colorado History Center loaned the Silverton School kids some items. They also consulted with Professor William Wei at the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Colorado to ensure their display would be culturally sensitive.

The Silverton students also completed a play and a garden exploring Chinese-American history in Colorado, planting vegetables including bok choy, Chinese mustard and snap peas. The school also traveled to the Sand Creek Massacre site and Camp Amache in Granada.