Elizabethton’s fourth-graders watch history reenacted Wednesday

Published 8:16 am Thursday, September 26, 2019

When it comes to history, many children would rather watch a movie about a historical event than read about it in a heavy textbook they use to finish their homework each day. Wednesday, these children got to witness something more fun than a movie.

Elizabethton’s fourth-graders gathered at Sycamore Shoals State Park Wednesday morning to learn about life during the Revolutionary War, complete with live demonstrations of music, games and more.

Tammy Markland, a teacher at West Side Elementary, said the field trip is part of their annual “Living History Education Day.”

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“It teaches about what was going on during the time,” Markland said.

Students from the three elementary schools split into several groups and rotated between different stations throughout the morning, learning about stuff like how butter was made, different games people played and even how firearms like the American long rifle and the British musket worked.

“It brings what we are teaching to life,” Markland said.

For example, she said the Sycamore Shoals area was not originally a military fort. Rather, it was a farmstead the locals fortified due to attacks from the Native Americans who also lived in the area.

She said listening to lectures in a classroom or completing workbooks can only get students so far. Seeing the subject in person can do wonders to help them not just remember what is being taught, but to truly understand what is going on.

“I have students who do not understand potatoes come from the ground,” she said. “They do not understand the process.”

This does not imply her students do not know how it works or that they are ignorant. Rather, seeing something work is different than reading about how it works.

She said it is also a convenient way of “tricking” students into learning without them realizing that is what is happening. She pointed to a group of girls playing a dice game called “Shut the Box,” in which players work with sets of numbers to create pairs that equal the number they just rolled, to greatly simplify.

“These ladies do not realize they are doing math,” Markland said with a smile.

She said she would love to do more events like this with her students, to get them out of the classroom as much as possible so they can see how the world works for themselves.

“It is taking advantage of what we have to offer in this area,” she said. “I would love to do something like this every day. It helps them remember it better.”