Trip teaches kids about city history 

It may be a challenge to get seventh-graders interested in anything academic — let alone history — but local educators have found a way.

In the coming week, hundreds of preteens will trek to downtown Redwood City to learn how older generations lived, worked and played by visiting the Lathrop House, the newly restored 1910 County Courthouse and the Fox Theatre.

The field trip has become an annual tradition over the last 10 years, getting kids out of the classroom and into buildings they probably see all the time and never think much about, said Cheryl Bracco, principal at the McKinley Institute of Technology.

"These buildings are places where people’s memories were made; they remember their first kiss in the balcony, or how they hung out with their friends here," said John Anagnostou, owner of the Fox Theatre. "And then you tell kids that Ace from ‘American Idol’ just played here, and they say, ‘Wow, really?’"

At the Lathrop House, students learn about one of the oldest mansions in Redwood City, which was built in 1858 by Mary and Benjamin Lathrop, a couple who owned the land that’s now home to much of the city’s downtown.

The house is now sandwiched between the current San Mateo County courthouse, where today’s government and law are practiced, and the 1910 County Courthouse, whose front steps and facade were fully restored last year.

At the courthouse, kids learn how many panes of glass are in the intricate stained-glass dome — and a little bit about the strange, toxic substances that were once used in its construction.

"Carmen [Blair] brings out the lead that was used to put those glass pieces in place, and she shows them the hazard gloves they wore to handle it," said Mitch Postel, president of the San Mateo County History Museum.

Tours will take place Wednesday, Thursday and next Tuesday and Wednesday, and will include seventh-graders from all Redwood City School District schools, said city planner Charles Jany.

Through these excursions, "they get a view into the past, and understand that things were different and not the way they are now," Jany said. "I think that opens their eyes."

Online today: Learn more about local school programs.

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Beth Winegarner

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