Learning about past by reliving it

Published 10:19 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- First and second graders at Merritt Elementary took a glance into the past on Tuesday.
That's when the teachers in the school's multi-age classroom setting put on Colonial Day.
In two separate classrooms, a little more than 40 students did crafts, tasted foods, such as beef jerky, dried apples, corn bread and spiced cider.
The students also sang songs used in colonial times.
Debbie Carew, a second grade teacher at Merritt, was among the teachers who put on the event.
She said Colonial Day is based on Michigan benchmark standards in social studies.
Among the activities in Carew's classroom was singing and food tasting.
Jan Weeks, a Merritt first grade teacher, however, had different activities going on in her classroom, which the students only had to walk through a door to get to.
In Weeks' classroom, the students dyed fabrics, worked with beads to illustrate trading, made toys, as well as gifts that the children can use as Christmas gifts.
Some of the students also did pottery using homemade play dough, which they subsequently decorated.
Weeks thinks Colonial Day adds a lot to what the students learn about colonial times.
She said the students went to Amish Acres to prepare for colonial day.
There they looked at how the Amish have been doing things, such as crafts and preparing food, for centuries.
Although Colonial Day gives the students practical experience in doing crafts and making things, Weeks also thinks the activities help students when they read about colonial times.
Cody Young, a first grader, went through all of the eight different activity stations before he found out that he enjoyed sewing the most.
But, he also enjoyed making a spinning top.
And, apparently, he didn't think the food was half bad either.
Linda Fay, Young's grandmother was among the many parents and grand parents who helped out during Colonial Day.
Fay, who does crafts with her grandson when he visits, said she thinks the students learn a lot when they do hands on activities, but not necessarily just from doing the crafts themselves.
Julie Brant, a local musician who has played mandolin and percussion in different area bands over the last 10 years, sat in a chair with the students sitting on the floor in front of her.
She taught the students one of the apparently 150 different versions of "Yankee Doodle Dee."
But Brant also taught the students a Native American song which described a canoe ride.
The song, she said, is about how to enjoy nature.
Although the students were exposed to many different activities and learned new songs, the underlying importance of Colonial Day is perhaps more important.
Brant thinks it's essential the students learn about colonial times in this country.