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South Jordan Journal

Through ‘Day in History,’ Early Light students make connections to yesteryear

Mar 09, 2023 10:15AM ● By Julie Slama

Second-grade twins Olivia and Addison Blank dressed up in 1980s outfits for Early Light’s Day in History. (Shannon Berry/Early Light Academy)

Flashback to the 1980s – a decade of acid-washed jeans, parachute pants, fingerless lace gloves, jean jackets, Air Jordans, shoulder-pad dresses, leg warmers and neon windbreaker suits. Video games led by “Pac Man” were on the rise, hacky sacks and skateboards were popular, break dancing was big as were females’ hairstyles. In the news, the Cold War ended at the end of the decade.

This is just some of what students at Early Light Academy, a South Jordan charter school that emphasizes history, learned during their 10th annual Day in History, focusing on the 1980s.

“We hope our Day in History helps kids make connections to the things that they read or hear about in history,” Early Light curriculum director Shannon Berry said.

Sixth-grader Jordyn Larsen said she appreciated learning about some of the pop culture of the 1980s.

“We listened to a lot of music, and it was really cool to learn all of the music that was popular then and discover how popular it still is,” she said. “We learned about the toys and things they did in the 1980s. It’s really cool to see how trends now relate to what they did in the ‘80s.”

She wore a vintage 1908s T-shirt and said many of her friends, as well as their teachers, dressed in the 1980s look and while they worked on projects, they rocked out to music. They listened to Journey, Elton John, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”

Displayed at the school was a “museum” of items from the 1980s with popular toys such as Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Gremlins, Jenga and Transformers, and technology of the era; Walkmans, boomboxes and even a rotary phone.

Fifth-grader Drue Allen learned about the Berlin Wall and watched videos of former President Ronald Reagan saying to tear down the wall. 

“It fell in 1989, and it was pretty cool to see how people got together to break it and to see where they painted on sections of the wall,” she said.

Drue also learned about technology then.

“I didn’t know they had computers in the ‘80s,” she said.

Her class was also able to watch parts of 1980s movies, including “The Sandlot,” which was filmed in Midvale, Salt Lake and Ogden.

Fourth-grader Sophia Jones learned about the Challenger space shuttle and about Christa McAuliffe.

“She was the first citizen ever selected to go up into space and be trained like a professional astronaut,” she said. “It did explode, unfortunately. We watched the video, and we learned our teacher was in eighth or ninth grade in 1986 and she was watching it on TV in a library. She said that little by little they all started to think that something wasn't right.”

Sophia said they learned to play a game called “The Oregon Trail.” 

“You just basically travel the Oregon trail to get out west. It was super fun to play. One of my friends was amazing at it,” she said.

The girls also said they asked relatives to share their memories from the 1980s. One said her grandmother brought out yearbooks and photos of their lives then and told her about their favorite music and movies, such as “Back to the Future.”

Berry said that the Day in History not only was held in the elementary school, but in the junior high as well.

“In one class there, they learned about the Exxon oil spill and did a simulation of cleaning up the oil spill and how they did it with the chemicals they had to use. It helped them get a better understanding of what went on,” she said about the 1989 Valdez supertanker disaster in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

In previous years’ Day in History events, Early Light students have learned about Ancient Greece, Medieval times, the Vikings, 1400s, 1776, 1820s, 1847, 1920s and 1969. 

An open house is planned March 7 for interested students and parents to learn more about Early Light Academy.