SCVi hosted its sixth annual Learning Civil History Day on Wednesday, when members of the community were invited to witness a living history reenactment, featuring historical characters, battles and other interesting aspects of life from the time period.
“Today, our learners are looking at the Civil War through various lenses,” said Dustin Lengning, an SCVi eighth-grade facilitator who portrayed a General in the Union Army. “Some are looking at it through food, some are looking at it through a soldier’s perspective, others are taking a political or women’s perspective in terms of what it was like in the 1860s for different people.”
SCVi founder Amber Raskin said the day is one the signature events that she never misses.
“It changes every year and grows depending on the number of kids and what they take interest in,” said Sara Brown, a Community Outreach Coordinator for SCVi and iLEAD schools. “This year we had a lot of kids interested in the education field and medical tents,” so this was the second year the event was able to have a schoolhouse and the first time both armies were able to utilize medical tents.
Children and attendees relaxed around the Rancho Camulos Museum grounds while eighth graders served food, participated in the market and meandered around living life like people did in the 1860s.
A few classes came for a field trip and witnessed the Gettysburg address, an abolitionist rally and confederate battles firsthand, while the now-graduated students who initially participated in the event came back dressed in their attire to participate in the telegraph station and dinner parties, where visitors learned proper etiquette from the time period.
This year, iLead students participated as well, which led to a significant increase in the number of historically accurate characters each student had to envision. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and Stonewall Jackson were but a few of the figures wandering around along with the everyday soldiers and ladies who wore Victorian period dresses.
The notoriously fickle Flintlock was also on display on Wednesday along with other weapons of the 1800s. Students had a chance to shoot them into the air, causing loud bangs and booms that persisted in the background throughout the event.
Hannah Oakley, an SCVi eighth grade student, played a lady that was grounded from going to a ball, but when war broke out, she was forced to communicate through letters with morse code, a skill some students learned prior to the project.
“It’s an imaginative character based off two historical figures,” Oakley said. She picked the character because she always enjoyed the idea of spywork.
Oakley didn’t participate in a battle but she did have an active role in the mock trial, where suspects were put on trial for crimes like sabotage and sentenced to death by firing squad.
Isobel Salters depicted a teenage character who pretended to be a man in order to join the war after her family attempted to marry her off.
Salters said the character is somebody she feels she can relate to. She explained that she was one of the soldiers on the battlefield firing live gunpowder and caps, and was also a member of the firing squad who killed Oakley’s friend, which fit into the historical narrative of her character.
“It’s an immersive way to learn,” said Oakley, who had to understand the effects of chloroform on the brain since she also acted as an anesthesiologist in the medical tent.
“The beauty of it all is everybody has to do something,” Brown said, explaining the ways students created soaps, shaving creams and other crafts for the sellery, which serves as the museum gift shop and raises funds that help pay for the event
This project-based learning aspect helps students understand various standards in new and creative ways, Lengning said.
“Learning by doing is the idea,” he added, “meaning children are looking at the areas that interest them and gets them excited about history, as opposed to having them open a textbook and remembering numbers and basic details they can’t envision.”
It’s a great event for the community, organizers said. Kids like it, families have fun, they’re safe and they see things down here they never have before.