Interactive exhibit aims to teach students about Buffalo Soldiers

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Ruth Palao’s studio walls in Willard Hall are filled with clippings, pictures, games and photos from different museums. These are the artifacts she uses to create interactive projects to recapture history and find a way to capture young minds.

The graduate student in visual communications opened an exhibit Tuesday that teaches the history of the Buffalo Soldiers in an interactive way – featuring game boards and hands-on activities. Palao’s interest in this topic is personal, because her great-great-great uncle was a Buffalo Soldier.

Palao was born in Texas but spent her childhood in a small village northeast of Mexico. At the age of 13, she moved to the United States. Before coming to K-State, Palao received a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Florida A&M University in 2004.

Buffalo Soldier is a nickname given to members of the U.S. 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments of the United States Army by the Native American tribes they fought.

Buffalo Soldiers also guarded mail and built roads and railroads. The units were formed on Sept. 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

While learning the facts, a child could color a paper medal of honor for a soldier or explore the timeline. A teenager can browse the Web site, which provides some information about Buffalo Soldiers, who were discriminated against because of their dark skin color, given sick horses and old equipment, but nevertheless, fought for the country.

“This exhibit is interesting. It gives basic information about Buffalo Soldiers for those who are not familiar with the topic,” said Michael Goens, University Publications editor, who visited the exhibit.

While preparing her project, Palao went to Manhattan Middle School to speak with pupils to get the idea of what they really want.

“The reason why I chose the middle school kids as a target is because they are very inquisitive,” Palao said. “This is one of the hardest audiences to please. When developing the project I had to keep in mind that every student learns differently.”

She said she found children like history, but they are tired of just books.

“Books are the most common method of delivering information that most teachers use,” she said. “But you can use something else besides books – something more interesting than just lectures and lectures.”

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