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March 24th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
The sound of cannon thunder, the smell of fresh gun powder from a musket, the soft muzzle of the Cavalry horse, and the powerful impact of seeing Harriet Tubman come to life; it’s Oak Avenue’s Civil War Day! The eighth grade students of Oak Avenue Intermediate in Temple City participated in the seventh annual Civil War Day on Friday, March 20th. Students attended seven stations where they learned about life during this momentous time in American History.
The Washington Artillery of New Orleans, led by Paul De Nubilo, shared their knowledge of Civil War life as artillery soldiers. At the end of each class, they fired their cannon signaling to all of the students that it was time to rotate to the next station. Donnalee Simmons, whose husband Scott is also in the Washington Artillery, shared what life was like for a woman in the 1860’s. She and a friend showed students the period dress and paraphernalia that women from the Civil War era were expected to wear. Ann Raymond, a former Oak teacher, and David Alonzo, Special Education teacher, taught students how to square dance and dose-doe with their fellow classmates. “The dancing was full of energy and made me laugh!” exclaimed eighth grade student Kelly Guo.
Charlene White portrayed Harriet Tubman, bringing this courageous abolitionist and Union spy to life. Marcelle Ferguson, eighth grade US History teacher and sister-in-law to White said, “Students were riveted by her passion and often moved to tears by her inspiring stories.” Dan McCluskey, portraying a Union Cavalry soldier, shared stories of Civil War life from the back of a horse. Teacher Robert Westgate noted that “students often jumped, screamed and were startled when McCluskey would fire his revolver, but his well-trained horse never flinched. The 2nd Vermont Volunteer Infantry, led by Jeff Lawson and John Cuevas, had students up and drilling with wooden musket replicas as they explained Civil War camp life to students.
The 5th New York Volunteer Zoauves, dressed in their traditional French North African garb, were an imposing sight. Ralph Keys, whose wife works at the Temple City District office, joined the Zoauves after seeing them perform at one of the Civil War Days. The Zoauves were a magnificent sight on the battle field. Eighth grade student Mia Pfirrman said, “the experience was just like being there at the Civil War.” Cheyenne Downing, a fellow classmate, added, “the re-enactors made the experience so much more real.” The day was concluded with music from the world famous Americus Brass Band where students clapped their hands and stomped their feet to the melodious authentic Civil War music. Catherine Tsai summed it up best by saying, “the day was filled with educational experiences that were worth remembering.”
On behalf of Oak Avenue Intermediate, I’d like to thank the Temple City Board of Education and the District Office for their continued support of this educational event. A special thanks to Chelsea Kang-Smith, our Superintendent; Lawton Gray, Oak Avenue principal; Will Sabalburo, the project facilitator II at Oak Avenue; and Lynn Frontuto, our Administrative Assistant, for their help and hard work. Also, thank you to the seventh grade PE for giving up their facilities for this eighth grade event, and to all of the eighth grade teachers for their support and dedication in making this special day happen. We also want to thank the Temple City community for the years of support and patients with our noisy educational day.
All of the educators at Oak Avenue hope that students in the years to come will continue to experience this hands-on, real life Civil War Day, and benefit from it as so many have before them. Photos and video of the event can be found at the website of the Temple City Chamber of Commerce photo gallery link at www.templecitychamber.org
By Jessica Goold, 8th Grade U.S. History Teacher at Oak Ave. Intermediate