As part of an annual in-depth study of the causes and effects of the Civil War, seventh grade students complete a variety of participatory activities related to this important conflict. Highlights of the study include taking part in Civil War Week where they join either the Union or Confederate army and “live the life of a soldier,” coming to school each day in the uniform of either The Blue or The Gray. This week of integrated learning fully immerses students in a litany of tasks such as simulated surgery in the field, cooking over an open fire, sleeping under the stars, marching in formation, using math and map skills to calculate when the opposing side’s troops will arrive and engaging in a full-on battle reenactment.
In tandem with these living history experiences, students also write, illustrate and publish poetry based on a line from Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh,” and delve into a personality of the era in their Civil War Biologues. The purpose of this particular project is for students to organize and deliver an informative first person narrative of a related historical figure. Each student chooses a personality from the period, composes a 5-7 minute talk that intricately weaves together historical facts and stories of the individual’s life, and then embodies the personality by presenting their talk in full-character at an evening performance entitled “Portraits: Voices of the Civil War.” It is a moving and informative “black box theater-style” event that showcases the depth of knowledge our students leave this unit of study with, as well as their growing sophistication and poise as creative, dramatic artists.