Through living history museum, Klein ISD makes effort to bridge generations

Friday, August 11, 2023
Through living history, Klein ISD makes effort to bridge generations
Wunderlich Farms and the Klein Gold Program are two ways the district is connecting students and senior citizens alike to the history of the original founding families who settled the Klein community.

KLEIN, Texas (KTRK) -- Before Steve Baird was walking, talking history -- he was teaching it as an elementary school instructor.

"I wanted to embed history into every subject," Baird explained to ABC13.

Baird's classroom is now open-air, spanning 20 acres. He's the Director of the Klein Historical Foundation and the Museum Curator at Wunderlich Farm. His hands, voice, and attire help preserve the history of the original founding families who settled the Klein community back in the 1800s.

"What's so vital for me out here is to really make sure that we don't forget who the people were that started the district and started this town that we call Klein, Texas now," Baird said.

Klein ISD is one of just four school districts in the country to own and operate its own living history museum. The history at Wunderlich Farm not only features living animals, but multiple homes and structures.

Each school year, more than 4,000 fourth grade students in Klein ISD take an interactive field trip to Wunderlich Farm. Many of those students attend or will attend schools named in honor of original Klein, Texas families like Doerre, Mittelstadt, Kuehnle, Kleb and Klein. The history of those families is among the heritage found at the district's living history museum.

"Everything we do here is intentional," Baird said. "It's not just a, 'Hey come out for a two-hour fieldtrip to get out of school for a little bit.' They're learning so much that they don't even realize it."

But in Klein ISD, they're not only working to connect our younger generation. There's an effort to link senior citizens in the district, too.

Georgan and Tom Reitmeier moved to Klein, Texas more than 50 years ago. Their two sons are Klein ISD products. Even if Georgan didn't serve on the Board of Trustees, which she's done since 2005, the Reitmeiers would still be linked to the district, even though their sons are both out of school.

"Really your community centers around your school and your involvement in school," Georgan shared.

"Since I've become 65 and older, and seen some of the opportunities for volunteering and mentoring -- it's provided me an opportunity to get involved in some of that as well," Tom revealed.

The Klein Gold Program allows senior citizens in the district, even those without a child or grandchild in the system, to receive free admission to Klein ISD athletic events or fine arts productions. They're also presented with opportunities for mentorship.

"We as the older people, the seniors, in this community -- we want young people in our lives," Georgan said. "That's vital to our own growth."

The Klein Gold Program is an effort to bridge the gap between generations -- similar to the work Baird is doing at Wunderlich Farm.

"The history is all around us," Baird said, proudly. "Just because the landscape changes, doesn't mean the history does. That's what I want out here --- for people to have a connection to their past."

Baird may no longer be a teacher, but through his role with Klein ISD, he's still imparting history lessons.

For more sports news, follow Adam Winkler on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.