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Woodbury school receives historical visit

staff Photos by amber kispert-smith Twentieth-century scientist and inventor Frederick McKinley Jones, played by Dwight Scott, visited Red Rock Elementary on Jan. 20 to teach students about the life of Jones through storytelling and demonstrations from the era.

History came alive last week at Red Rock Elementary when a figure from Minnesota history dropped in.

On Friday, Jan. 20, scientist and inventor Frederick McKinley Jones visited the school's fifth graders as part of a Minnesota Historical Society's History Players event.

The History Players are historians who visit schools, libraries and senior centers to describe the lives of historic figures through storytelling and artifacts - while taking on the persona of that historic figure.

"We find historical figures that aren't the most widely known, but ones that can really help tell a good story about the times they lived in and their own history," said Dwight Scott, of the Minnesota Historical Society, who portrayed Jones.

Some of the History Players' other characters include: Harriet Bishop, William Del Barre, Virginia Mae Hope, Maud Hart Lovelace, Thomas Lyles, George Nelson and Mary Dodge Woodward.

The History Players came to Red Rock thanks to fifth grade teacher Diane Munson, who was named History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, an affiliate of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Jones, who spent much of his life in Hallock, Minn., designed the town's first radio station and invented a device to combine sounds and motion pictures.

Jones was eventually hired by Cinema Supplies Inc. in Minneapolis.

Around 1935 Jones designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food. Jones and his boss Joseph Numero eventually created U.S. Thermo Control Company, later the Thermo King Corporation, which became a $3 million business.

Jones' air coolers for trains, ships and aircraft made it possible for the first time to ship perishable food long distances during any time of the year.

Jones' portable cooling units also helped during World War II by preserving blood, medicine and food for use at army hospitals and on open battlefields.

During his visit as Jones, Scott brought with him a variety of old photographs, as well as artifacts such as an old radio, a morse code receiver and even a piece of an old car.

"It's a way of teaching history that isn't just names and dates - it's really stories," Scott said, "History should really be telling stories that teach and inspire."

Munson said Scott's visit to Red Rock was very worthwhile.

"This was more than we expected," she said.

Munson said she appreciated how Scott incorporated Minnesota history with United States history.

Munson said she also liked the emphasis on science and engineering.

"I loved the demonstration of the characteristics of perseverance and creative thinking," she said. "Plus (Jones) is a perfect example of a lifelong learner, which we hope for in all our students."

Both Munson and Scott said having students see the artifacts and hear the stories from the people themselves helps make history more relatable for students.

"It's making the stories come true," Munson said. "It makes it so much more relatable and more real since they're right back in history with Mr. Jones."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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