WARNER ROBINS -- Nearly a dozen fifth-graders received draft cards Wednesday afternoon, calling them to fight in a war nearly halfway around the world. They were told they had no choice in the matter.
“Because you didn’t flee to Canada or stay in college, you have been drafted,” Jim Hilton, a retired airman, told the 10- and 11-year-olds assembled. “It’s my job to train you, get you to Vietnam and get you out alive.”
The children lined up, counted off and marched at basic training before retreating to the debriefing room. Though Hilton served 21 years in the Air Force, he wasn’t trying to refight Vietnam. Rather, Hilton wanted to create an environment in which the students experienced what it was like to be drafted into the armed forces.
A senior in Middle Georgia State College’s School of Education, Hilton is one of 46 student teachers acquiring practical classroom teaching experience at the college’s fourth annual Summer Learning Festival.
The one-day festival enrolled nearly 100 students from across the midstate. Aimed at rising second- through sixth-graders, the festival focuses on several subjects, including history, social studies and fine arts.
Wednesday’s event also marks the first time the festival has been held in Warner Robins instead of on the Macon campus.
Loleta Sartin, an assistant professor of education, said the college seniors teaching at the learning festival receive class credit.
“This course is a designing interdisciplinary curriculum course,” Sartin said. “In this course, the students learn how to incorporate multi-content lessons into engaging interactive lessons.”
While the younger students don’t get academic credit, it’s a mutual learning experience because they are absorbing some of the state’s new Common Core curriculum for the upcoming school year.
Sartin said it’s not just a history lesson for the younger students.
“It’s social studies, math, literacy and all of the arts -- visual arts, drama, music and dance,” Sartin said.
Bryce Beebe, a rising fourth-grader at Warner Robins’ Sacred Heart School, said he learned a lot about the significance of America’s most recent national holiday.
“We’re learning about the Declaration of Independence, and we’re learning about the (Revolutionary) War,” Beebe said. “We’re talking about how come the Fourth of July is so famous.”
Beebe and his classmates made fake firecrackers with the help of a few teachers who dressed like patriots. They also watched videos and learned about related subjects such as the Coercive Acts and the Constitution.
For a class on famous Americans, teachers donned superhero-like capes to teach second-graders about people such as Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The students marched with picket signs and yelled, “We want the right to vote!”
Rising third-graders learned dances and listened to jazz tunes from the roaring 1920s before they studied about the Great Depression. The classroom was decorated to look like a shanty town, and the students wore burlap sacks.
Samantha Viator, a senior student teacher, said she had to do a lot of research to prepare the day’s lessons.
“We did an activity where we were talking about foods they had in the Great Depression,” she said. “We weighed potatoes, apples, and then we got the volume of things like water and apple cider. Then we had them make their own Kool-Aid by deciding how much (powder) they should put into the water.”
In addition to their newfound knowledge, students at the learning festival left with bags of crafts, goodies, food, journals and other material they gathered on their journey across the world through history.
Taylor Waits, a rising fourth-grader from Warner Robins, learned about the American Revolution and the Gold Rush of 1849.
“I didn’t expect it to be this cool or exciting,” Taylor said.
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.