Dear Friends -
This Wednesday, my calendar read “Pickett’s Charge- 1:00 pm.” Not my usual appointment for that time, to be sure. As I made my way to the upper playground, I came face to face with groups of the boys and girls of Mike’s Rainbow Room class with glorious Civil War beards and mustaches drawn in marker on their faces. They had each been studying key figures from the Battle of Gettysburg, and they excitedly told me about how General Longstreet from the Confederacy was reportedly U.S. Grant’s best man at his wedding. They had also been studying maps of Pickett’s Charge for days, and under the tutelage of parent/historian extraordinaire Joe Vergolina (thank you Joe!!), they took their places in the middle of our schoolyard to prepare for an enthusiastic re-enactment of the troops movements during the important last clash of this turning point in our national history.
Their interest in the Civil War began last fall after a family tree project brought to light some family connections to Civil War soldiers. They started reading the book Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco that led to discussions about the nature of slavery and differences between agrarian and industrial economies. They worked with our art teacher Alice to create letters, in calligraphy, between different participants in the war pushing their ability to take on another’s perspective, to empathise, and to understand what it was like to live through this traumatic and tragic time period. They analyzed the change in tone, imagery, and wording of recruitment posters as the war took its toll and the need for more soldiers became more and more acute. The students started independent research projects that would take them into the end of the school year. This spring they read the book Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.
This is the type of education we pride ourselves on at Randolph. It is difficult to explain (I encourage you to look back at Mike’s Friday Notes from this year for an even fuller description of his Civil War curriculum) and neat and tidy catch phrases rarely do it justice. It is rich, engaging, messy, complex, thorough, vigorous, and filled with life
It also happens to be incredibly effective, and usually a whole lot of fun!