Stellar Charter School Relives History


Stellar Charter School in Redding presently educates 200 children, with a combination of on-site core classes and parent- and teacher-supervised instruction at home. Part of the school’s curriculum includes elective classes that go above and beyond the usual on-site book learning, including docent programs in science and history.

Started 14 years ago by Stellar Charter School Principal Patricia Furnari, the Living History docent program enlists student volunteers from 6th through 12th grades to reenact the gold rush era at Shasta State Historic Park. Located six miles west of Redding along Highway 299, the park sports the old brick buildings of the original Shasta City, a burgeoning mining town in the 1850s and 1860s.

As Living History junior docents, students are registered as volunteers in the state park system and must research a person who lived in Shasta City during the gold rush era. They commit to the program for a year, start training in November, and begin tours in February on Friday mornings. Wearing period clothing, the junior docents lead activities for 4th graders from local schools while chattering in character about current events of the time. Students in the docent program also lead activities at school fundraising events.

Barbara Erlei, administrator for the docent program, says, “students are very excited to participate” – typically there’s not enough room for all who apply. The program has traditionally been offered as a pass/fail grade with no history credits, but it does meet the requirement for community service hours for graduating seniors, and plans are in the works to change the grading system to better reflect the level of hard work many students put into their characters. 

Barbara herself is enthusiastic about the program and enjoys working with Jennifer Pooley from Shasta State Historic Park. Jennifer directs student visitors to pan for “gold” (pyrite) and to use it to purchase “supplies” at the park’s tent city. “Kids can invest their ‘money’ into the mining company or the bank,” Barbara explains. “Jennifer will tell a story about the bank being robbed or a similar happening, then explains how that might affect investments. Afterwards, the kids tally their money, and the one who does the best is awarded with a flake of real gold.” 

Other activities led by the junior docents include making butter, or creating tin-can art. With grant monies, the park has recently been able to enough period clothing so that students on field trips can dress up for the experience. 

School field trips with junior docents can be scheduled through May. Teachers interested in field trips to the park can visit for more information. To learn more about Stellar Charter School, visit the school’s website at  

Kimberley Harper
About Kimberley Harper

Writer Kimberley Harper lives with her family and her cats in Siskiyou County. In her work in support of artists, she has come to a deep appreciation of the value of arts in the community.

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