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Stepping into history

Studying history allows us to understand how people and societies behaved in the past and how these events have shaped society today. 

Eighth grade students at Overland Trail Middle School have been studying historical events and notable figures, such as the American Revolution, the Constitution and George Washington. Not only have students learned about this period of history, but they immersed themselves in their learning. 

George Smith of the Sons of the American Revolution visited the students and gave a full presentation regarding what it was like to live and fight during the American Revolution. The Sons of American Revolution chapters work closely with their communities to keep alive the Patriotic ideals for which our ancestors fought and died in the American Revolution. They do this through various re-enactments and participation in local events like visiting schools.

Smith can trace his lineage back to a 15-year-old member of the Green Mountain Boys who fought out of colonial New York (modern-day Vermont). His presentation included showcasing uniform pieces and artifacts from the time period, reinforcing many of the concepts that students learned about the 17th and early 18th centuries. Students learned about the requirements to join the ranks of the Continental Army and they put a piece of history in their hands as they inspected original relics including sugar cones, parchment paper, playing cards, and a compressed tea brick. 

The live presentations and hands-on exploration of physical artifacts allowed students to transport back to the American Revolution. They heard, saw and touched pieces of early America like actual antiques from George Washington’s life thanks to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History which lent the school a hands-on exhibit from November - December. 

The exhibit included famous paintings, photos of relics, and images of documents representing times in Washington’s life while in the military, as a statesman, and during his private life. Topics discussed included his choice to continue to educate himself even when it was not something his family could afford and the fact that he was a slave owner. Discussions, experience and story-telling gave students perspective and understanding that Washington was by no means a perfect individual, but one that accomplished much during his lifetime. 

Eighth grade teachers, Angel Tari, Casey Feldner, and Nicole Herrera wanted to bring these enrichment opportunities to students so they could see the connections of the human elements of history and how that story continues through them and forward into the future. 

“Sometimes it can be difficult for students to relate to what has happened in the past. History becomes engaging when it can be tactile, discussed and experienced. These learning opportunities provide that for students,” said Angel Tari. 

The historical experiences Overland Trail students gained through hands-on learning and the creativity of their teachers is just one more #ReasontoBelieve. #IBelievein27JSchools