Support the Fort re-enactors provide students glimpse into past

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, October 26, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Fifth graders from Niles Community Schools elementary schools got a chance to witness life as it was in the 18th Century recently.
Re-enactors from Support the Fort were on hand at Howard Elementary School to show the children how people in the 18th Century dressed, cooked, played, and practiced medicine at Fort St. Joseph.
The re-enactment was the second in a two-phase educational program created by Support the Fort and Niles Community Schools.
The first phase took place from Oct. 11 to 13, when Support the Fort staff visited Howard, Ballard, Eastside and Oak Manor schools to introduce fifth grade students to Fort St. Joseph history and the process of archeological science.
The goal of the program is two-fold; to raise awareness about Fort St. Joseph and its history in the students, and to educate the students about Michigan history, which the students are tested on when they take the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) test in fifth grade.
The re-enactment was set up with seven educational stations, each focusing on a different aspect of 18th Century life. Children learned about clothing, food, toys, medicine, Native Americans, and French voyagers and fur traders. The final station featured a recap of the history of Fort St. Joseph and the archeological process.
Next year, as the program is likely to become an annual event, Byrdak hopes to double the number of educational stations and to bring in more re-enactors.
The program came about when Support the Fort didn't hold its annual re-enactment along the St. Joseph River and members were looking for a way to hold a re-enactment and draw the schools into the process as well.
Members of Support the Fort approached Niles Community Schools Director of Curriculum Jim Craig in May with the idea of holding a re-enactment at one of the elementary schools and instituting the educational classroom program as well.
Craig said the partnership with Support the Fort is likely to grow larger in the coming years based on the success of the re-enactment.
But students weren't just learning Thursday, some were teaching.
Ceili Rockhill, 11, a fifth grader at Eastside Elementary School, showed the other students how children played in the 18th Century.
Rockhill has participated in re-enactments since she was five-years-old, often acting out life in the 18th Century with her grandparents, Pat and Bill Rockhill.
Rockhill said she enjoys teaching at the re-enactments because it offers her the chance to be someone else for the day.
Byrdak said she would like to work more closely with the Fort St. Joseph Museum in the future to expand the re-enactment further.