Colonial History Comes Alive at Upper Nyack Elementary School

BY BARRY WARNER

“Entering the Encampment”- Fourth graders are carrying flags, sounding flutes and wearing Revolutionary War costumes as they enter the encampment on Colonial Day.

Recently, fourth graders at Upper Nyack Elementary School engaged in Colonial Day activities in conjunction with the social studies curriculum.

The students set up a military encampment on the athletic field and spent the day living as Revolutionary War soldiers. With the assistance from the Living History Education Foundation, the children wore realistic costumes including tri-corner hats, haversacks and cartridge boxes.

The purpose of the turned-up brims of the black felt hat was to form gutters that directed water away from the wearer’s face depositing most of it over the shoulders. The haversack was a bag with a single strap worn over the chest used to carry food along with other vital supplies. The cartridge box was a black leather box that was used to hold forty cartridges of ammunition.

Before the students moved around, they received their food rations, which consisted of cheese, bread, meat and water. Rotating stations around the field provided authentic experiences such as setting up and striking canvass tents, marching with replica muskets, playing games such as Graces and Hoop Roll.

In addition, students handled artifacts, which are objects or tools used by the colonists, such as bowls, buckles or boxes. They learned about colonial medicines, such as herbs, honey and flowers that were used to treat diseases.

Dr. Anne Roberts, principal, told The Rockland County Times, “This is the second year that the fourth graders are participating in Colonial Day, illustrating experiential learning at its best. Mr. Galantich is in charge of the Living History Club and his enthusiasm is catching. Today, children will engage in experiences that will last a lifetime.”
Pre-Colonial Day activities included learning about:
. Cartridge Rolling: Preparing a paper tube of measured powder and ball to load the musket.
. The Cartridge Box: A weather proof leather container to hold the prepared cartridges.
. Quill Pens: Sharpened wild turkey or crow feathers that were dipped in ink.
. Canteens: Containers made of wood or tin to hold liquids, such as water.
. Hornbooks: Wooden paddles with lessons tacked on and covered by a piece of transparent horn.

Living History teacher Joseph Galantich stated, “The Living History Education Foundation provided the costumes and the props. In addition, the event was made possible due to a grant from ‘Our Upper Nyack Kids.’ The essence of Colonial Day is to present the students with a realistic experience of living as a Revolutionary Soldier for the day during the colonial period.

I conduct the ‘Living History Club’ after the school day and the students are very enthusiastic, plus they stay late to learn more. Last year, there was a large increase in the number of participants after the initial Colonial Day. As a follow-up to today, students will keep journals and compare their current lives with the lives of the Revolutionary War soldiers and decide if they would enlist to fight for the colonies!”

Professional reenactors , drummer Peter A. Cutul and fifer Erik Lichack from the Fort Montgomery Historic site, taught the students marching techniques. Fort Montgomery was the scene of a fierce Revolutionary War battle against the British for the control of the Hudson River in 1777.

Student Cameron said, “We get to be outside and learn the life of a RevolutionaryWar soldier. Also, we get to march to the sounds of the fife and drum and learn how to hold a musket.”

Recreating an encampment provided many benefits for the students by giving them ownership of their education, using multiple learning styles, teaching teamwork and making the study of history meaningful and relevant. It was a great experience for the students and their teachers alike, to bring the colonial period out of the history books and live it first-hand!