BTWES travels to the coloniesPublished 9:22pm Friday, January 17, 2014
Fifth-graders at Booker T. Washington Elementary School stepped back into the pages of history Friday, learning how much different – and sometimes similar – life was for the colonists compared to their own.
The school’s fourth annual Colonial Day started with a colonial breakfast of Johnny cakes and ham with spiced cider, before students peeled off into classrooms to lean about candle making, early toys, horn books and other facets of yesteryear.
“It’s an event to immerse the children in colonial life so they can see what it used to be like and compare it to our life today,” said fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Morris, who helped organize the event.
Boys wore tri-corn hats and cravats, girls wore mob caps, and some students chose to add other items of colonial costume.
“The hats were made in class, the others were made for them,” Morris said.
In one classroom, peer specialist Felicia Ruffin taught the art of colonial toy-making, showing students that a length of string and a button could be turned into a simple whirligig.
It wasn’t exactly an Xbox, but students still smiled as they pulled their string taught and made the button spin faster and faster.
In another classroom off the fifth-grade hallway, Patrice Wiggins, a Title 1 teacher’s assistant, helped each student make a candle to take home with them.
“We take for granted that every day we can just walk into a dark room and just flick a switch,” Wiggins said.
“These are real candles, and with adult supervision at home, you can light them.”
Wiggins fleshed out her lesson with slices of social history, such as the fact that a father whose daughter was the target of amorous intentions would use a “courting candle” to signal to the young gentleman whether he approved or disapproved.
After hearing the factoid, student Terrell Queen reiterated to the class, “If the father didn’t feel too strongly about you, he would roll down the candle so you would not have as much time as you wanted to.
“If he did feel strongly about you, he would roll it up and you would get more time to spend” with his daughter.
School Board Chairman Michael Debranski stopped by to look in on the event. He said he was visiting all district schools that needed to improve reading and/or math to achieve full accreditation.
“They are doing an excellent job in preparing their kids to improve their academics,” he said of Booker T. Washington Principal David Reitz and his team.
Gwendolyn Williams, an assistant principal at the school, said Colonial Day was about giving children an opportunity to apply some of the facts they learn in the classroom.
“They are actually doing the things versus hearing about it,” she said. “It makes it more real-life, and they connect our experience with the experience of the past.”