Sherman students’ park lesson recorded by ETV

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2002

Mississippi Educational Television broadcast technician Eris Wilson, right, records Sherman Avenue fourth-graders while Gene Edwards, far left, interviews Civil War re-enactor Tom Maute Wednesday in the Vicksburg National Military Park.(The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[04/25/02]Mississipi ETV was able to take students statewide to the Vicksburg National Military Park for a field trip Wednesday.

The broadcast featured eight fourth-grade students from Sherman Elementary who gave an account of their own field trip in the school’s third annual “Classroom in the Park.”

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The program was geared toward fourth-graders studying the Civil War as part of their social studies curriculum and, of course, could be taped for use in individual school schedules.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Diane Hartman, director of instructional production at ETV, explaining that schools have limited time and resources to make “real” field trips. “It’s part of our mission to bring it to them.”

Also featured were park rangers and other personnel who explained the significance of the 1863 seige of Vicksburg in American history, the weaponry and what a soldier’s life was like during the period. The broadcast host was Gene Edwards, a commercial TV anchor.

During the broadcast, students statewide were able to submit questions to the park rangers by e-mail or fax.

Last week, 85 Sherman Avenue students selected from six fourth-grade classes were filmed signing enlistment papers with quills and steel-point pens, grabbing their canteen-like water bottles and haversacks and heading out to spend a day in 1863. Clips from that outing were incorporated in Wednesday’s production.

Tents were pitched, marches were made through trenches and “feasts” were held on homemade beans and biscuits (prepared by the school’s cafeteria staff). Throughout the day, the troops moved about among four learning centers, including the Shirley House, the Illinois Memorial, Hickenlooper’s Battery and the 3rd Louisiana Redan.

“They learned things here that there’s no way to learn in the classroom, because there’s no way to experience them,” said Beth Martin, a fourth-grade teacher at Sherman Elementary.

She said the students selected for the broadcast were chosen by “class work how behaved they were and how they impressed (teachers) on the field trip.”

The students assumed the identities of actual soldiers who fought in the 45th Illinois Regiment, which was a lead mining regiment during the war. Each class represented a different company within the regiment. The soldiers’ names, including W.F. Robbe, Richard Baxter, Joseph Buck and Thomas M. Wallace were assigned to students before the trip and were located by the students on muster rolls inside the memorial, where they rubbed the names onto tracing paper with crayons. The students also participated in artillery drills and watched as park rangers, dressed in period clothing, demonstrated rifle firing.

In addition, they kept diaries of their experiences which they later compared to excerpts from original Civil War journals, said Linda Johnson, curriculum coordinator at Sherman Elementary.

She said the project is set up to “give students hands-on experience to identify with the things they read in the classroom” and said the program has proved to be a success.

“It sparks enthusiasm and it seems to work beautifully,” she said. “They come away with a totally different perspective on Mississippi history.”

Ten-year-old Sheridan Melchor said she didn’t quite enjoy soldier life. “There’s a lot of wildlife out there and I found out what soldiers ate and I didn’t like it because I don’t like beans,” she said.

ETV Executive Producer Senior Darryl Moses said the broadcast, powered by a $2.3 million digital-mobile production truck, was only the second electronic field trip for ETV, the first being a Doc Severinson concert in Jackson. Moses said future field trips will most likely include the Stennis Space Center and the Natchez Trace.

Ranger Rick Martin, who was instrumental in the project’s inception, was nominated for the Southeast regional Freeman Tilden Award, given by the National Park Service for interpretive excellence.