More than 800 third grade students from seven elementary schools in Fort Mill gathered at Walter Elisha Park last Friday to take a step back in time.
The students have learned about South Carolina history in their classrooms, but last Friday they had the opportunity for some hands-on learning, thanks to History Days, presented by the Fort Mill History Museum.
The day began with excitement, as students were surprised by a round shot from what they though was a cannon, but later learned was a replica of a Civil War-era rifle.
Throughout the morning, students rotated through history-themed stations, including a colonial games area where students learned about what kids their age did for fun before attempting to play each one. Colonial games included checkers (then called “draughts”), a ring roll, and “graces” (a hoop toss) – among others.
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“The games are impossible,” said Luke Mantel, of Riverview Elementary School. “But I guess it’s just like if they tried to play Monopoly. That would be hard for them.”
Students participated in a Revolutionary War-era militia drill and learned about the first shots of the Civil War from local historians dressed in period costume. Fort Mill resident Mike Short taught students about the rifle they heard fired early in the day, explaining that it was a replica of the rifles that protected Charleston Harbor and fired on Fort Sumter, destroying the fort after 36 hours of firing.
Riverview student Chloe Barwick was surprised to learn about the rifle’s range.
“It was interesting that it could shoot three miles,” Barwick said.
One of the most anticipated parts of the field trip was the replica of the Confederacy’s H.L. Hunley, the Civil War-era submarine that attacked and sunk the USS Housatonic. After sinking the Housatonic, the Hunley sank, killing its crew of eight men. Students listened intently as Mark Clark, General Manager of the Hunley Traveling Exhibit, explained the history of the H.L. Hunley and how the submarine was operated.
The small submarine had room for only the eight man crew to sit. Rashawn Veneble asked a common question among the students.
“Where did they use the bathroom?” he asked.
“What does your mama tell you before you go on a trip?” Clark asked. “You better go to the bathroom before we leave.”
Darlene Kerr, a third grade teacher at Riverview Elementary School, helped organize the event. Kerr has a passion for history, and South Carolina history in particular, and was grateful to the Fort Mill History Museum for helping bring history to life for Fort Mill students.
The event helps reinforce classroom learning by allowing students to see and experience many of the things they’ve discussed.
“They love the reenactments, and they love the Hunley,” Kerr said. “[The re-enactors] are all dressed up, and when students can see that it really helps them learn. Anything they can see or touch helps them learn.”
History Days also helps bring exhibits like the Hunley replica and war reenactments to the students who may otherwise not have the experience of seeing them.
“The Hunley is in Charleston and reenactors are usually on battlefields. The students wouldn’t necessarily go there,” Kerr said.