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Following in the founders’ footsteps

Friday, December 21st, 2012 | Posted by

Students in Mrs. Hang’s fifth-grade class on Nov. 27, dressed as their Revolutionary War characters: (left to right) Miranda Heckford, Kailey Carnation,Sammy Reyes, Nicholas Pariani (hidden in back), Brett Budrow; front row, Samantha Huie, Logan Puntous, Connor Wong, Cameron Taylor. (Photo by Kelli Wong)

For the past four weeks, fifth-graders at Brooks Elementary have had the chance to become our nation’s founders, stepping into their clothing and playing their parts in a hands-on re-enactment of the birth of our nation.

It’s all part of a program called Walk Through the American Revolution, provided to schools throughout the state by Tustin-based California Weekly Explorer.

For two and a half hours, students “become” famous Revolutionary War era men and women so they can recreate key events that teach them the importance of American liberty and patriotism.

California Weekly Explorer was founded in 1979 by Don Rice, who felt that history was more than a list of dates in a book and was better “experienced” than read. He began bringing his interactive program to schools throughout California, a process he described as an “in-school field trip.”

The company’s repertoire has since expanded to include California history, the Revolutionary War era and the cultures of ancient Greek,Rome and Egypt.

When Brooks parent Kelli Wong was a teacher in Pleasanton, she scheduled Walk Through field trips for her classes.

“The students are not just learning history, they’re acting, living and feeling it,” she said. After her former fifth-grade pupils had graduated from high school, several told her they still remembered the thrill of dressing up and re-enacting a Revolutionary War battle.

With her son enrolled at Brooks, Wong suggested the program to school administrators, and last year they tried it out in two classes.Using a grant from the Windsor Educational Foundation, they were able to expand it to all nine fifth-grade classes this year.

Students spent two or three weeks prepping beforehand, building on their American History curriculum by receiving their roles, learning their lines and making their costumes.

For his role as Thomas Jefferson, for example, Wong’s 11-year-old son Connor tucked baseball pants into tall socks, pulled on a vest over one of his mother’s ruffled blouses from the ’80s, made an admiral’s jacket and finished it off with a gray thrift-store wig.

“The kids were thrilled,” Wong said. “They learned acting, reading, memorizing and cheering for each other.”

They also prepared themselves for the culmination of the school year, a spring field trip to Washington, D.C.

For more information about the Walk Through programs, visit californiaweekly.com.

(Left to right) Nicholas Pariani, Connor Wong, Sam Ampuero, Samantha Huie, Logan Puntous, Lucas Fowler perform in the “American Experiement,” a play within a play that’s part of the Walk Through the American Revolution.

  • Kathy Wingate

    My daughter, Grace participated in the American Revolution Walk Through at Brooks, and I loved it! Thank You Brooks and Kelli Wong for such an important study for the kids.It was a great refresher course for the parents who were there too.Children learning valuable facts about our country’s history is something that cannot be left out of the curriculum.

  • http://Windsorperformingarts.net Heather Cullen

    My son also participated in this. It was amazing how much information the children learned while having a WONDERFUL time. It was ingenious! I’m grateful for people who make the effort to create these experiences and I’m grateful for teachers and administrators who then bring these experiences to our children.

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James Lanaras is our Windsor correspondent.
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