Mifflin students get a hands-on history lesson

Photo by Brenda Maguire

By Brenda Maguire
News Writer

he sun was shining last Monday when the fifth graders at Governor Mifflin Intermediate School took part in a day long Civil War reenactment.

“We believe this is our 14th year doing this, and we’ve discovered this hands-on approach is good for them. In fact, many of our fifth grade children will tell us it’s the best day they’ve had at school all year,” said Donna Strobel, a fifth grade teacher who helped to coordinate the event.

“Each of these reenactors really is a mini-expert, so they bring their passion and get the kids excited and it just flows through the whole day.”

The fifth graders were broken up into five groups to visit the different stations inside and outside the school.

The highlight of the was the cannon, which was shot twice during the hour-long presentation each group participated in.

“Our reenactment group is from central Pennsylvania, but we reenact a group that was formed 150 years ago in Mount Jackson, Pa., which is almost in Ohio,” said Dennis Dewalt, who spoke to the children while his group prepared the cannon for fire. “It is our birthday. This group was formed 16 years ago.”

After Dewalt’s presentation and the cannon being fired, students were picked to learn the various jobs of the six members of the cannon team.

“What we’re doing with the kids today, we’re just teaching them how a Civil War artillery piece was loaded and fired. The steps, the procedures to it and we’re letting them have hands on experience, not actually firing it, but using some of the tools that they used,” said Dewalt.

“Instead of telling them about it, they have them in their own hands and can feel what kind of tools they used.”

Timmy Mangan was one of the fifth grade students picked to do one of the jobs in loading the cannon.

“It was fun, except the gloves were really, really big, so it was kind of hard to hold the thing that I had to use to take out the tin foil,” he said.

Mangan said the cannon was his favorite part, “Because it made a big boom!”

Outside, there were many other reenactment tables, including a table of herbs used for medicinal reasons during the war and a station with flags from the war.

Kathy Barrett was helping to run the wardrobe tent.

“We are a clothing demonstration. We let the kids dress up in period clothes and get pictures. We try to represent both male and female and various life styles, as well. Some are work clothes. Some are dress clothes and of course, the all important uniforms,” she said.

A Confederate army station taught students how to properly hold a rifle. Fifth graders also learned how to properly stand in line on the battlefield.

One of the fifth grade teachers Damien Drago put his guitar playing and singing skills to use to run a war song themed sing-a-long with tunes such as “Camp Town Races” and “Oh, Suzanna.”

At the other outdoor stations, students learned about what soldiers carried and what kind of food they ate.

Inside, students participated in a board game from the time called “Nine Man Morris.”

Guest speaker William Livezey talked about the lessons learned from Gettysburg and applied them to life lessons for the fifth graders.

“Let’s suppose these kids don’t remember anything from book learning about the Civil War. They will remember this day for the rest of their lives. You can’t give that up. They have to do this, because this is something they will take away and remember forever,” said Meredith Mangan who helped plan the event. “You can’t put a price on it. This is tremendous.”

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