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Schools take virtual field trip

Nearly 500 fourth and fifth grade students from Suffolk Public School visited Riddick’s Folly this week, but the historic building is none the worse for wear.

Thanks to modern technology, students had the opportunity to go on a virtual tour, complete with all the education and none of the difficulties of a traditional field trip.

“It’s a great opportunity for the children for the children to see a place of historic significance without ever having to leave the classroom,” said Margaret Litt, a fourth-grade teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary. “It was neat that they were able to apply what they’ve been learning in the classroom about the Civil War to their own backyard.”

The tour was led by re-enactors who played Nathaniel Riddick and Anna Mary Riddick, his daughter. The two showed different parts of the home and incorporated the home’s history, Civil War history, reconstruction and facts about the women’s suffrage movement.

“I coordinated the facts of the tour with fourth- and fifth-grade Standards of Learning,” said Lee King, Riddick’s Folly’s curator. “It dealt with the Civil War, reconstruction and the suffrage movement.”

The tour was taped beforehand and replayed in the classrooms, where King answered questions from the museum in real-time through video conference after each class had their tour.

“The students had some very good questions for him,” said Wendy Hymons, lead social studies teacher. “I’ve heard a lot of questions about slavery and the transition period after the Civil War, because during the tour Anna Mary talked about a freed woman they paid. Also, one of the children asked about if the Riddick’s fought for the north or the south. That’s probably a good thing for the teacher to know — that they might need to go over which side Virginia fought for.”

King said besides saving on transportation costs and time lost during transport, it normally takes all day to show 100 children the museum.

“But yesterday we saw 200 children in just over an hour,” King said.

Hymons, who organized the trip, said she is going to reach out to other locations like the train museum and Great Dismal Swamp that might be interested in working with the schools to put together similar trips.

“We want to connect history that happened in their own backyard to what they’re learning,” Hymons said. “We want them to understand that what they’re reading really did happen, and it happened right here. That’s what was nice about this. [Before the tour,] the children knew [only] that Riddick’s Folly was across from McDonalds.”