West Side kids have a blast with the past

Published 10:03 am Monday, September 22, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks Kin Palmer Camp

Students from West Side Elementary took a trip more than 200 years back in time Friday.
The students were transported back to colonial times at Fort Watauga with their annual visit to Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park to commemorate the crossing of the Overmountain Men with the Overmountain Victory Trail Heritage Days.
More than 300 students from all grades at the school made the trip to Sycamore Shoals to spend a day learning about life on the frontier and the journey of the Overmountain Men at the invitation of interpretative Ranger Chad Bogart.
This is the fourth year the West Side Elementary students have taken part in the Overmountain Celebration at Sycamore Shoals. The students, along with parents and teachers, walk the short distance from West Side Elementary to the park and spend the morning and part of the afternoon learning about colonial life from reenactors and demonstrators. The Elizabethton Police Department helps with traffic control for the group.
The students visited nine different stations that told about key aspects of frontier life. The stations told the story of the Overmountain Men, explained the importance of sheep and how wool was used, provided information about muskets and rifles, exhibited colonial games, explained the use of plants and herbs, the way furs and hides were used, frontier home life, colonial clothing and life inside Fort Watauga.
“We try to mix up the exhibits every year so that there is something new for the students, but a lot of the stations are the same because of the story,” Bogart said. “We like to stick with things that would have happened on the frontier, how the early settlers would have lived and what it would have been like to have been on the frontier in the 18th century.”
Fifth-grade teacher Denise Davis said the Overmountain Celebration was one of her students’ favorite field trips of the year. She said because the students come to the event on an annual basis, they hold on to the lessons they learn and build on them each year.
“We hope what they take home with them is the heritage of the community and where they come from,” Davis said. “There is a lot of history that is based here in the fort.
Fifth-grade student Savannah Ward said the annual field trip did increase her interest in local history.
“I was never really interested in it before,” Ward said. “Now, I think it is cool and I want to learn more about it.”
Fourth-grade teacher Lee Ann Fox praised the field trip for all of the lessons that it brought to the students. She said the day helped to teach the students about their own heritage and culture in East Tennessee and what life was like for the settlers.
“We want them to gain an appreciation for what the previous generations have lived through and endured,” Fox said. “We hope they get a feeling of how much work they had to put into obtaining their basic needs. They are getting a real life experience of what they went through in that time period.”
Bogart said he hoped the students gained an appreciation of what frontier life would have been like for the first families in the area.
“We want them to not only get a taste of life on the frontier, but an appreciation of the history that happened right in their back yard,” Bogart said. “We want them to know they can learn while having fun and that they will leave with more knowledge after this visit that they can share with others.”
The 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain is often known as the turning point for the south in the Revolutionary War. By this time the Patriots had driven the British out of the northern part of the country. However, the British were still winning in the south.
Approximately 640 frontiersmen from East Tennessee and the Carolinas met at Sycamore Shoals before marching off to fight the Battle of Kings Mountain.

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