Civil War Camp at Sunset Ridge immerses students in history
By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., May. 27, 2011
At Sunset Ridge School, the troops were gathered May 23 to listen to President Abraham Lincoln give his Gettysburg Address. Dressed in blue or gray t-shirts to represent the Union and the Confederate armies, fifth-grade students recently spent the day immersed in history in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Scott Edington played the role of Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president. “I tried to inspire the troops to do their best,” said Edington, who also handed out a penny, which he called his “official portrait.”
When not playing Lincoln, Edington is the school psychologist at Sunset Ridge Elementary Academy for Art and World Languages, a magnet school. “I think this hands-on kind of experience will broaden their perspective, which is what we try to do here at Sunset Ridge,” Edington said.
In preparation for the event, students have been learning about historical figures, battles, and the lives of ordinary people of the time. Civil War re-enactor groups called the Liberty Grays and the New England Brigade – representing Confederate and Union troops - wore Civil War uniforms. They also brought along a range of artifacts – muskets, a Howitzer cannon, drums, a replica of a sergeant-major’s tent – to the event that was held on the school's wide-open field.
Paul Plant, a member of the Liberty Grays and the school's head custodian, was a coordinator of the event. “This year is the 150 anniversary of the Civil War, which will be a four-year commemoration starting this year until 2014,” Plant said.
Plant blew a bugle and called on the troops to assemble. That meant it was time for the students, who had been eating a typical soldier’s lunch of potatoes, bacon and cornbread, to assemble in their various groups.
Tyler Drennan, a Sunset Ridge student in a blue t-shirt and cap, put on a long white beard. “I'm an old private,'' he said.
Karlene Santiago said she learned what a soldier’s life might have been like. “I know they had to carry their tents and backpacks and walk a long way,” she said.
The students were called by name and received a letter from home handed out by President Lincoln. Many were surprised to learn they were real letters written to them by their parents or siblings as if they were away from home. Students also carried a journal in their backpacks to write down their experiences of the day as if they were soldiers.
“This lets the students kind of step back in time, and get an appreciation for what those times might have been like,” said Brian White, assistant principal at Sunset Ridge. “When they can experience history in this way, we hope it inspires them to want to learn more.”