In touch with history

Published 10:24 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Medical practices: Civil War re-enactor John Pelletier describes medical practices used during the war and shows surgical instruments of the time to fifth graders, from left, Olivia Blust, Tiffani Barber, Jarvis Turner, Anthony Kimpson and Maykayla Willis at Oakland Elementary School Wednesday.

Oakland students take part in Civil War Day

Oakland Elementary School fifth graders traveled back 150 years in time on Wednesday to become a part of history during Civil War Day.

Students got a taste of what life was like during the war by learning about food, clothing, art, music, medicine and other topics during the special review for the Standards of Learning tests happening later this month.

Students split into groups and visited six stations with Civil War encounters set up in classrooms and the gym.

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Re-enactors with the Tom Smith Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans gave a presentation on life during the war, especially the medical care of the time.

“I certainly think they enjoy the medical, because it’s kind of gory,” re-enactor D.W. Taylor said.

Student Mason Brown said hearing all the bloody details was his favorite part of the day. However, Tenae Walker felt differently about it.

“I didn’t like the part when we talked about (medicine) in the gym,” she said. “I don’t like blood. It’s nasty.”

Some students’ faces curled with disgust as re-enactor John Pelletier, who organized the medical presentation, told them doctors used their fingers to probe wounds.

“We try to give somewhat of a diversified program,” Taylor said. “The kids seem to look forward to it.”

Another popular station was Oakland parent Troy Curliss’ presentation on food during the Civil War.

He offered students a spread of gingerbread, beef jerky, lemonade, goober peas (a Civil War nickname for peanuts) and hardtack — flat crackers that were a staple in a Civil War soldier’s diet.

Curliss said while soldiers died from many maladies during the war, malnutrition heavily contributed to conditions that caused death.

The food presentation was Dariel Nathan’s favorite event, and he said enjoyed the gingerbread the most. As for the hardtack, the name apparently says it all — Dariel said it was too tough to chew.

Other events including a discussion on period clothing by volunteer Wanda Gerard, an art project making bean and seed mosaics, and a campfire sing-along, featuring songs such as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and “Eating Goober Peas.”

The students also got to play baseball, which was invented during the Civil War.

Additionally, the Rev. Mark Burns told students about soldiers’ lives during the war. He said it’s important to remember people from all different backgrounds and races joined the war effort.

“Probably, there’s someone we can relate to who fought in the Civil War,” he said. “Everyone can identify with a soldier’s life.”

Oakland’s resource teachers — music teacher Rena Long, art teacher Jodie Linkous, physical education teacher Anne McCoy and librarian Michele Waggoner — put on events like Civil War Day for each grade level to help students absorb SOL material for social studies. Throughout the year, fifth-graders covered U.S. history up until 1877.

“This is trying to reach them on a tangible level,” Long said, adding the approach helps the children better recall facts.

“That’s the whole point: to get them to excel on their SOLs and do it in a fun way,” she said.

Linkous said the special events are her favorite times of year, because they offer so many activities for the students. She said it is a good way to help them understand the time period.

“It gives them a better view of life in the Civil War, so they can relate to it,” she said.