Return to Headlines

Toray brings history to life in Bethel

Thanks to Frederickson’s Toray Composite Materials America, middle school students in the Bethel School District got to see history come alive in their classrooms.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

John Muir has been called the “Father of the National Parks” and was the founder of the Sierra Club. He died in 1914, but his memory lives on through people like Lee Stetson, who is a John Muir impersonator. “I began doing the character in 1983, and I’ve been doing it in Yosemite National Park since then,” he said.

The character was a draw for Stetson because of Muir’s writings. He said in them were “more accounts of near death, or near mutilation, than most human beings could ever imagine.” Stetson also enjoyed the poetry of Muir’s works, and incorporates a lot of it into his delivery, sometimes quoting Muir directly.

“For if enough of us go, and play among the spirits of the wilderness – jumping from rock to rock, tracing the rivers and the streams to their sources, sauntering through the meadows and the trees, spending a lazy afternoon at the river’s edge – if enough of us simply do this, get in touch with the nerves of the mother earth, then we need not despair; for what we so learn to love, we shall not allow to be destroyed.”
– Lee Stetson performing as John Muir at Frontier Middle School

Having “John Muir” in the classroom was a big deal for Mical Bryant, Frontier Middle School’s honors humanities teacher. “We happened to be in our National History Day preparation, so it fit in nicely as a way to demonstrate a performance of bringing a character from history alive,” she said.

In preparation, Bryant’s class watched two student-created documentaries about John Muir. “It was a way to have my students evaluate sources, while getting to know him. And then we did a quote search, where they found their most meaningful quotes from him, and did a reflection on why this quote was meaningful.”

Bryant said she also wanted to get her students to realize that the legacy of John Muir was right outside their classroom window. “I tried to show as much Mount Rainier related John Muir items as I could find, so they could make that connection to their backyard, literally.”

“I had no intention of climbing Mount Rainier, but as it turned out, while I was at the very base of the mountain with a group of students and an old friend of mine … I just could not resist it.”
– Lee Stetson performing as John Muir at Frontier Middle School

Along with Frontier, Stetson also performed at Cedarcrest, Liberty, and Spanaway middle schools. The performances were all a gift to the students of Bethel from Toray Composite Materials America.

“Toray has a long history with the district, partnering on both outreach and causes that we have in common,” said Tim Kirk, Toray’s vice president of sales. “Lee was here last year for Toray’s Earth Day celebration, and it was amazingly successful. So we wanted to make that opportunity available to more students this year.”

“Toray has been very kind to sponsor my activities up here,” said Stetson.
 
You can read more about Lee Stetson at www.johnmuirlive.com.
 
John Muir impersonator Lee Stetson performs for students at Frontier Middle School