The Old Mining Town of Murray, Idaho

Murray, Idaho Post OfficeThe silver mines of Kellogg and Wallace, Idaho, are still in existence today, and are the common areas of conversation when the discussing the subject of mining in Idaho, but the town of Murray, Idaho, is largely unknown or forgotten; however, it played a key role in mining history. Murray  is known as the cradle of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District, and Spokane owes much of its early growth to the silver and gold mines across the state border in Idaho.

In 1882, a discovery of gold on Pritchard Creek created a feverish gold rush and in three years, Spokane’s population of 800 grew rapidly as over 10,000 people came to the area in hopes of cashing in on the riches of the day. Murray, Idaho, became the central city in the gold rush, and its credits include the last great mining discovery in the continental United States. Miners branched out in the area during the next years and in addition to finding rich sources of gold,  they discovered the largest silver mine in the world about 17 miles south of Murray. Over the next 115 years, the area produced 1.2 billion ounces of silver. Road crews in the area today are still known to uncover gold and silver.  How is the Empire State Building connected to Murray?  The Guggenheim profits from the gold rush in Murray built it.

Today, Murray is a semi ghost town inhabited by prospectors, loggers, and retirees. It has some fascinating sites. The Sprague Pole restaurant and museum is a must see. The museum, located inside the restaurant, is unexpectedly very large – and cold; dress warm. It has many period rooms, rock, mineral, and gem collections, old mining equipment, coin collections, as well as memorabilia. Also, stop in at the Bedroom Goldmine Bar where you can see a mining hole through a bedroom floor.  The owner, convinced that he was sleeping on a gold mine, ripped up his floorboards and dug down 36 ft to bedrock and gold. Overlooking Murray about one mile south of town is the Murray Pioneer Cemetery containing the graves of many pioneers of the area as well as the man credited as being Mark Twain’s inspiration for Huckleberry Finn, Captain Toncray.

Murray is about a two hours from Spokane, Washington,  with beautiful scenery along the Coeur d’Alene River Road as you drive north from I-90 just past Cataldo. Turn on Pritchard Road which will take you to Murray.  Let me know what you discover when you go to Murray, or what you remember if you’ve ever visited.  I want to go again.  Does anyone have a metal detector and sturdy shovel I can borrow? Pick ax?

Coeur d’Alene National Forest

I love the colors of Fall in the Northwest, and while driving up to the old mining town of Murray, Idaho, I fell in love with the vibrant autumn hues reflected  in the meandering Coeur d’Alene River along the road. I’m going to write a separate post on the history of the mining in the area, but the river itself was so beautiful that the pictures deserve a post of their own. I took these pictures just before the sun set over the hills.  Do you have a favorite area for Fall colors?

History Wax Museum - Marco Polo

Wax Museums



Startling the crowd around her, my student shouted these words at the beginning of her wax museum speech. The crowds loved it, and her speech was a highlight  during one of my earliest wax museums.

Wax museums are a great way to make history come alive for students. The students research the information on a historical person or event, write and memorize a one minute speech, prepare a 3-fold presentation board giving more information, and finally present the speech wearing a period costume.

A wax museum can be adapted to any grade level. In my fourth grade class, it was a yearly history project given during Grandparents Day. Around 400 people would visit the wax museum during our 90 minute time slot. Parents, grandparents, and kindergarten through high school students would come and listen to the speeches. I was fortunate to teach in a K-12 school, and the older students enjoyed hearing the speeches and reminiscing about the historical person or event they represented when they did the wax museum.

My students loved doing the wax museums. After all their hard work with research, writing and memorizing their speeches, they transformed into little experts as they donned their costumes and said their speeches. The reward was instant with the smiling audiences and positive comments. Even with the almost non-stop reciting of the speeches, it was a highlight of the year for the class and always a huge success with the audiences.

Logistically, the students would be assigned a presentation spot about 10 yards apart from each other. They would set up their presentation boards and “freeze” in a comfortable pose. A person or small group would come and press an imaginary button on the shoulder, and the wax figure would come to life, deliver the speech, and freeze again as soon as the speech was over. This process repeated many times during the Wax Museum. The students had carefully hidden water bottles for when their throats got dry.

Here are a few pictures from the past few years. The Leonardo da Vinci characters were from three different years.


Here are the steps for a wax museum.

  1. Pick the historical event/person.

  2. Research and write a one minute speech.

  3. Revise the speech and memorize (teacher needs to edit speeches).

  4. Prepare a presentation board with more information (character/event title and dates, map of where the event happened or where the person lived, any interesting pictures or information.

  5. Practice memorized speech in front of people with good volume, speed and enunciation.

  6. Find a costume.

  7. Present the wax museum.

Whether you have a traditional class or a home school, a wax museum can work in many settings and is a great way to learn history. Have you done a wax museum? I would love to hear about your experience.

Special thanks to Veronica at for the use of her pictures.



Coffee and Tea Drinkers – A Contrast

Often, I go to coffee shops to write.  Today as I sit in one of my favorite coffee shops, I ponder the difference between coffee and tea drinkers.  I offer my thoughts on the subject.

From my experience coffee drinkers can’t start their day without their morning cuppa Joe. For some, it’s a whole pot of coffee! There are rules one must abide by when interacting with a coffee drinker. Most importantly, one must not try to have meaningful conversation with a coffee drinker until after the first cup. Another rule is that for true coffee connoisseurs, only the personal favorite brand, brewing method, temperature, etc. is allowable. Some lightweight coffee drinkers will only drink the brew in the morning to get them going or as a social drink later on. Many coffee participants have to be careful about the caffeine content and so will go to decaf later in the day. To serious coffee drinkers, this is unacceptable! Coffee without caffeine is not true coffee and should not be tolerated by any trained coffee lover. Pity the poor soul who thinks this is an acceptable option.

On the other hand, tea drinkers drink tea in the mornings mainly for the soothing flow of hot flavored liquid felt as it goes down the throat all the way to the stomach. It’s not so much of a caffeine thing as it is habitual comfort. A serious tea drinker can be just as much a snob about particular teas and brewing methods as a coffee drinker. The morning coffee rule does not apply to tea drinkers. You may talk to them whenever you want. Serious tea drinkers are more open to non caffeine alternatives than coffee drinkers because the primary reason for the tea is the comfort of the tea flow through the body. Herbal teas are an acquired taste, but are acceptable as a late night option or the only option for those staying away from caffeine.

There is a third group of conflicted souls. These are the coffee/ tea drinkers. They clearly love coffee and need it in the morning, but because of the caffeine sensitivity thing, and knowing the decaf is not an option, they have adapted to tea later in the day. I admire these people the most. They have made the switch the other side instead of settling for an inferior product. Bravo!

I probably should acknowledge a fourth group of people who actually like coffee and tea equally.  These are people who make good friends. They are usually very agreeable and get along with most everyone.

To coffee and tea lovers everywhere – enjoy!

Geography Day

Geography Day – When Geography Comes Alive

The school I taught at for the last fifteen years wanted to make geography more meaningful for our students.  We came up with the idea of doing a Geography Day to highlight different places in the world.

The elementary grades have a continent they focus on throughout the year, but for Geography Day each year we focus on a particular aspect. Then we get parent help to come up with ideas for presentations and room decorations.  On Geography Day, the students come dressed in traveling type clothes and are given school passports complete with their names and pictures, and travel with their class to each elementary room to learn about the particular continents.

As an example, one year we concentrated on animals common to each continent.  Each grade asked for parent volunteers.  Some parents had ideas on how to decorate the classroom to represent the theme, and some parents had ideas of lessons they wanted to teach each class as it came to visit on Geography day. The students of each class completed a project for involvement.

The fourth grade class learns about Europe in connection with their history, so for the animal focus each student made a poster about an animal from a European country of their choice. These reports were displayed around the room. The parents came up with the animals they wanted as a focus and made a slide show about these animals.  They decorated the room with life-size paper mâché animals. Some of these animals were on mountains the parents created with classroom desks and a lot of butcher paper.


When each class came through for the presentation, they learned about the different animals, got to read the class reports, got to pet a real hedgehog, and were given a bookmark about European animals. The other elementary grades did something similar. There were many  real animals in the school that day.  The parents had fun being creative and resourceful.

Other themes we have done besides animals are dances from each continent, musical instruments, geological  features, and specialty foods.  Recently our high school sophomore Geography class has joined us for

Geography Day by giving presentations.  It’s a fun day that the students anticipate every year.

I would love to  hear from anyone with other success stories  for making Geography come alive.  Also, please feel free to ask further questions on creating a Geography Day.







Palouse Falls


I stopped at Palouse Falls the other day on the way back from doing some out-of-town consulting.   It’s such a beautiful and unexpected place south of Ritzville, Washington, hidden among wheat fields and cattle ranches.

I remember the first time I drove to Palouse Falls State Park. I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I’d seen a few pictures. I followed rural roads for miles and hadn’t seen any water. The terrain was a little hilly, but there were no hills big enough for a huge water fall.

I drove down the last narrow road into the park and heard the roaring water before I saw anything.  It didn’t take long to realize I was at the edge of a canyon, and the water falls were in sight within a few feet.  It amazed me to know I had lived in Spokane for years and hadn’t heard much about the falls.

It’s a beautiful hidden gem of a state park with a half mile of scenic trails to explore. The Palouse River is the source for the falls which then drop 198 feet into a canyon eventually emptying downstream into the Snake River. The scenery of the magnificent canyon walls is simply breathtaking. There is a nice picnic area, bird watching, and wildlife viewing to enjoy while there.

My recent trip down the empty rural roads once again rewarded me with the sounds of rushing water, stunning falls, and spectacular scenic canyon walls. I need to stay longer next time with a picnic lunch to savor the natural beauty. Hopefully, I can make this a yearly outing.

Do you have beautiful back road gems where you live?

How to Create Memorable Content

Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms

On Tuesdays for a while, I will post teaching tips on how to make create memories and make history and other subjects come alive for your students.

A few weeks ago I was consulting for a small school, and I asked the teachers what they were doing to make the year memorable. I gave the example of a project one teacher had just completed on Shakespeare. I saw a few pictures of the event on Facebook, and those pictures demonstrated excitement and the joy of learning in the eyes of the students.

As educators we want to create a lifelong love of learning in our students. We can help nurture that love by taking different subjects and creating fun memories for them. In a school setting, the students can look forward to the special projects established for each grade.. For the home school setting, you and your children can come up with special projects as you plan out each school year.

For example, when I taught 4th grade, the students coming in would look forward to the Medieval Banquet, the Wax Museum, making gingerbread cathedrals, and creating salt dough maps of Europe. I would make sure the younger classes in the school would be exposed to our projects to create an anticipation for 4th grade. As much as possible, I let the older grades see our projects because they had a great time reminiscing about their experiences doing the projects.

Come back to this website on Tuesdays for Teaching Tip Tuesday or sign up on email for specific project ideas and instruction. Next week, I’ll be talking about having a special Geography Day to expose the students to different countries and cultures.