When it comes to learning history, Matt Hogg figures it’s better to experience than to simply read about it in a book or hear about it in a lecture.

And that’s why there was a teepee on the front lawn at Litchfield Middle School last week.

Hogg, a fifth-grade social studies teacher at the school, asked local buckskinner Claude Sherod to bring the teepee and his wide assortment of Native American artifacts so students could get an up-close look at early life in Minnesota — actually touch and immerse themselves in the history.

“My goal is to allow the students to take part in the history they are learning about,” Hogg said. “It is one thing to read about a teepee in a textbook, or watch a YouTube video on what they are like, but it is a completely different experience for a student to step inside of one and get a sense of what it may have been like to live in one as a Native American in history.”

Four sections of fifth-graders hustled between the school and teepee throughout the day Oct. 20, dodging rain showers and trying to stay warm on the way. And though the weather wasn’t ideal, it did give students an idea of how well a teepee performed as living quarters.

For his part, Sherod agrees there’s nothing like experiencing history. You could say personal experience led him to a lifetime of collecting artifacts and actually living the life, on a part-time basis anyway, of the state’s earliest inhabitants.

Sherod explained that grew up on a farm near Odessa in western Minnesota, and on his walks to school he would see a badger digging in a mound on the side of the road. On his walk back home, Sherod would see pieces of bone sticking out, apparently uncovered by the burrowing badger. Curiosity being what it is for a young boy, Sherod figured it demanded further investigation.

“I started hauling them home and asked my dad what they were,” Sherod said. “Dad said he figured I brought home half a horse over time.”

And it wasn’t just bone fragments. Sherod and others also found arrowheads and other items on the open prairie of the area. He recalls learning about plants in second or third grade, and his teacher showing a book of wildflowers.

“She says, ‘Well, this flower is no longer, they can’t find it in Minnesota,’” he said. “And I looked at her kind of funny, and the next morning, I picked her some and brought her some, because they were still out on that chunk of prairie out there.”

That joy of uncovering things that others were not aware of has stuck with Sherod.

“It’s been, I don’t know, I just like digging into the old history stuff,” he said. “Finding arrowheads and finding, you know, how they did things and just doing a lot of research into this stuff.”

Along with a vast collection of Native American artifacts, including tools and clothing, Sherod lives the life, traveling to rendezvous events around the Upper Midwest, including the Forest City Stockade Rendezvous in August, and living in his teepee. He’s even been known to set up during the Forest City Stockade’s Pioneer Christmas event in early December.

The knowledge and artifacts he’s gained through the years makes him a pretty good resource for a fifth-grade social studies teacher who wants his students to experience Native American life in early Minnesota.

Hogg, a Litchfield High School graduate, is in his first year teaching at Litchfield Middle School after spending 10 years as a fifth-grade teacher at Dassel-Cokato Middle School. He has leaned on Sherod’s expertise several times in the past while at D-C Schools. Last week’s display was the first time Sherod had been to Litchfield Public Schools.

“The teepee presentation is something that I try to incorporate into our Native American unit in fifth grade, which we are just beginning this year in the classroom,” Hogg said. “Overall, I feel the experience went well. Claude and I felt the students enjoyed the opportunity and left with new learning on what life for a Native American may have been like on the Great Plains.”