Hands Up for Hands On!

May 20, 2015 | 2 comments


Tonger on Willapa Bay

Tonger on Willapa Bay

I am a firm believer in hands-on learning experiences. When I was teaching 1st/2nd/3rd graders, I often dreamed of holding class in a big bus and moving continuously from one interesting spot to another – historical sites, state parks, art museums – or maybe a trip to the mountains or the desert or… Well, you get the idea. The practical logistics (like what to do about housing and parents and money) were not part of my fantasy, of course.

The next best thing were day trips or even short walking trips to interesting nearby places. In Ocean Park it was the Wreckage and the Door House to say nothing of the library and (sometimes) to the beach.

Tucker with Oyster tongs - Summer 2014

Tucker with Oyster tongs – Summer 2014

And guest speakers! Especially those who brought ‘stuff’ for kids to do or to look at. Fun for the class and fun for me! And, I hope, illuminating and memorable.

My approach to teaching adults is much the same even though, for a two-hour evening class, field trips aren’t really an option. However, asking an expert to do a little ‘show and tell’ works wonders to liven things up. Or so the events of yesterday’s class at Grays Harbor College seemed to prove.

For starters, Tucker Wachsmuth (who is actually a class member) brought a set of oyster tongs and demonstrated their use – first with a small, model set, and then with the real McCoy. He had to stand on a couple of sturdy chairs to show us how the oysterman would work the tongs. How I wished that the floor would roll back revealing a pit filled with water below – just to make the whole thing even more authentic! (And there I was, fantasizing once again.) To round out his demonstration, he had brought a model of an oyster bateau – so much more understandable than the power point photograph I was showing!


Mary Garvey, Singer/Songwriter

Then came the guest singer! Yes! Another dimension entirely!  Mary Garvey, our treasured local singer/songwriter, sang her fabulous “Oyster Shell Road” for us, bringing to life the story of our Willapa Bay oyster industry during World War II. As usual, her song and sweet voice left me a little teary – in the best of all possible ways.

I can’t thank Tucker and Mary enough for their help in “Putting the Story Back in History.” I think the only thing better would be a field trip back in time. And there I go… daydreaming again!


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Last night was so much fun! Despite not being a particular fan of oysters, hearing about the lives of the oystermen and women was fascinating as was seeing Tucker’s collection of oyster tongs. Mary Garvey is a local treasure and Home on the Oyster Shell Road is always so moving. Maybe you should organize a field trip to the Wachsmuth Museum!

  2. Ruth maloney

    My suggestion is to set up a tour business for many different things. You have it sister


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