‘History Comes Alive’ at South Charlotte Middle

by Morgan Smith

Eighth-graders at South Charlotte Middle School participate in an assembly line March 29, a hands-on take of the Industrial Revolution, for the “History Comes Alive” event. Morgan Smith/SCW photo

Eighth-graders at South Charlotte Middle School traveled through time last week without leaving class.

For the second year in a row, students at the school participated in the culminating social studies event History Comes Alive that walks through the different eras of United States history, ranging from the American Revolution to the Civil Rights movement and current events.

In the past, eighth-graders were able to take various field trips related to their history studies to places like the Levine Museum. But with budget cuts and rising travel costs, the school had to come up with a way to bring the field trip to the classroom.

“We span from late August to June, and there may not be that sense of connection from period to period,” said Debbie Britt, language arts teacher at the school and a coordinator of the event.  “So we decided that if students were going to have that connection of the periods of history and also have the experiences they had when we could travel, then perhaps we could cut costs and achieve a different purpose by having everybody, as many people as possible, come in from the outside.”

And the school did that March 29.

Starting in the American Revolution, students learned about calligraphy, exploring the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Students even had a chance to create their own Bill of Rights, using the ornate writing style to establish a set of 10 rights to present to their parents.

They then moved to the Civil War, where they had a visit from an American Civil War soldier courtesy of the Latta Plantation in Huntersville. Hayden Elrod, an eighth-grader, said the Civil War soldier experience was one of his highlights of the day, adding it was interesting to take a peek into the daily lives of Union and Confederate soldiers.

Hayden explained that the history day really helped him better grasp the concepts earlier in the year.

“It kind of ties a lot of things together,” he said. “For example, we didn’t necessarily learn about the lives of soldiers (in class), but more about the battles they were fighting. This was a good way to actually learn how the soldiers felt during the war and helped me understand a little bit better.”

From Civil War, the students traveled to the Industrial Revolution, where they had hands-on experience with the assembly line, producing and packaging a product with efficiency while saving money.

Students then traveled to World War II through a presentation by Charlotte author Margaret Bigger who has published several books on conflict. Accompanying her was 94-year-old Martha Mitchell, a World War II nurse, who also lives in Charlotte.

But one of the strongest rotations of the day, Britt said, was the Levine Museum’s presentation of Charlotte and its involvement with the civil rights movement.

“In this diverse population, it’s hard for (the students) to understand that there are people who have had to fight for what they take for granted,” Britt said, “which is the opportunity to be socially interactive, academically interactive and friends with each other.”

Overall, Britt said she hopes students appreciated the special event and will hopefully carry the experience with them to high school. And as for next year, Britt said the coordinators are toying with the idea of expanding the three-hour event to an all-day affair and diving even deeper into our shared history.

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