A dispatch from the Revolutionary War:
On a chilly December day, 125 seventh graders participated in a Revolutionary War re-enactment on the lower field of the middle/high school, “living” the history lesson rather than simply reading about it.
Joining the Continental Army as “soldiers,” the students stood in formation on command, pitched and broke down tents, and executed drills with authentic muskets.
“Everybody stand shoulder to shoulder,” ordered retired Blue Mountain Middle School teacher Joseph Ryan.
Ryan is an historian and president of the Living History Education Foundation, and he led the re-enactment as an army sergeant. Wearing buff colored breeches and vest, a brown regimental coat with dark blue lapels, and a red patch epaulet to distinguish his rank, he bore a striking resemblance to George Washington.
“The children often come to me later in the unit and say he looks like our first president,” said Laura Booth-Freda, seventh-grade English and social studies teacher.
“My example tent looks better than yours!” boomed Ryan as he inspected the canvas tents. When he shook the tent A-frames, however, each tent withstood the test.
Although this tongue-in-cheek gruffness occasionally elicited giggles from the children, they regarded their military efforts in the struggle against Great Britain seriously. The care with which they disassembled the tents and packed them for the next “battle” demonstrated a new-found skill and understanding of 18-century military life.
The event was made possible by a grant from the Cultural Enrichment Committee of the PTSA and Valhalla Middle School.
During the final activity — a musket drill — Ryan “loaded” his gun and shot it into the distance. At the conclusion of the drill, they received “payment” for their dedicated service, an authentic replica of colonial money as a souvenir of their experience.