Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Heidi Sue from Victoria, TX. Heidi Sue Wonders, “In what occupations would someone need to use stilts?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Heidi Sue!

Have you ever found yourself unable to reach something? Most people have! Maybe you wanted the cookies on the top shelf. Or perhaps your frisbee got stuck on a tree branch. In these situations, many find themselves reaching for a step stool or ladder to get closer to what they want. 

Of course, some people find another solution. Instead of relying on a ladder, they practice with another device that raises them higher in the air. What are we talking about? Stilts, of course!

What are stilts? They’re the long poles people stand on to walk far above the ground. They strap the stilts to their feet and walk along, towering above others. You may have seen entertainers walk on stilts in a parade or at the circus. But did you know many other jobs use stilts?

The history of stilts goes back thousands of years—all the way to the 6th century B.C.E. In the Landes region of France, shepherds used tchangues (English: “big legs”) made of wood. These stilts were around five feet tall and helped the shepherds move more easily over the area’s marshy ground. 

From their stilts, shepherds could watch over their sheep and spot any predators approaching from a distance. For generations, people in Landes learned to walk on tchangues. Some were so good at it that they could walk and even run long distances. In 1891, Landes native Sylvain Dornon walked all the way from Paris, France to Moscow, Russia on stilts!

Of course, shepherding isn’t the only job that’s ever used stilts. In Sri Lanka, some fisherfolk are known to stand on stilts while fishing. The practice started after World War II, when the area was short on both food and boats. People planted wooden stilts in the sand and stood on them to fish. Today, a few fishers carry on the practice of stilt fishing.

Today, many people use stilts in construction. Specifically, they’re a convenient tool to have around when installing drywall. Rather than climbing up and down a ladder, people walk around on stilts that enable them to reach the ceiling or top part of a wall.

Finally, a performer’s job sometimes includes stilt walking. Stilt walkers are common in parades and circuses, but you might also see them at festivals and birthday parties. They bring unique entertainment to a wide variety of events.

Have you ever walked on stilts? Are you interested in learning? If so, we have a holiday for you. July 27 is Walk On Stilts Day! What better time to try your hand—or rather, your feet—at stilt walking?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4,

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