June 20, 2001
Fifth graders learn history through war re-enactment
By KAREN KABILING
Instead of reading about United States history from textbooks, Stevens Creek Elementary School recreated a piece of history on June 7, so that the fifth-grade class could learn more about the Revolutionary War outside the classroom--literally, just yards from the classroom.
With 107 fifth-graders divided into six different companies, marked with their own distinct name and flag, the schoolyard turned into a war camp with six rotating activities. There were enough tents for an overnight stay--complete with a canon, a box of muskets and a surgery station.
The school held its second Revolutionary War encampment, the first-ever fifth-grade overnight "Living History Day" that ties in with the Revolutionary Period of U.S. history.
Dressed in white shirts and black pants with either a red or blue sash across their chests (red signifying the British Army and blue as the Continental Army) the students were transformed into soldiers during the Revolutionary War period.
The project was the idea of Stevens Creek Elementary fifth-grade teachers Scott Henderson and Sarah Beetam who both attended the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a weeklong teachers' program based on Colonial American History.
Beetam said Colonial Day was typically a daytime event, but it was the "brainchild of Scott Henderson" to create an overnight military camp-style activity.
Beetam said the biggest advantage of the project was that the students would probably find the re-enactment more interesting than the textbook, which she said is often forgotten within six months.
According to Beetam, about 40 percent of the students are originally from countries other than the United States whose parents do not know U.S. history.
"A lot of things are a part of the United States background," Beetam said. "We spent a lot of time putting history into it, so that the kids would really learn some U.S. history."
Stephen Williams, a fifth-grade teacher who handled the musket station, said that, instead of just reading about history in books, the students were able to relive it.
"It's so great for the kids to live out historical aspects," Williams said.
Jenny Simonovich, a fifth-grade student, said she enjoyed being a part of the artillery canon team.
"It is really cool," Simonovich said. "We've really been having fun."
Brittany Russell, another fifth-grade student, added that the teachers were the reason the day was so enjoyable.
Debbie Black, a parent volunteer, noted that with such a diverse group of students, it was a great way to teach students from other cultures about the United States.
"The fifth-grade teachers did a great job--they don't have to do this," said Jodi Soboll, a parent chaperone. "[The students will] remember this for a long time."