Back in February, the Upper Elementary students were treated to a Revolutionary War presentation by Captain Roy Schmid, a Royal Regiment of Artillery. The presentation was impressive, demonstrating the sights, sounds, smells, and even the feeling of carrying a tremendous amount of equipment (as one student discovered). Below, Rebecca Callander, Upper Elementary Directress, describes the students’ interest in American history during this past school year.
Our class has been obsessed with American history this year, especially the Revolutionary War and Alexander Hamilton, due to the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Also, many children were passionately following the election cycle and many government-based questions emerged about our country’s beginnings: declaration, war, constitution, electoral college. Indeed, Our winter concert focused on the same time period; you wouldn’t believe the ridiculous conversations that emerged from that (“bloody footprints in the snow were real–we have to put them on the backdrop.” “Sure! Nothing says holiday spirit more than bloody footprints.” “They’re…red?”).
Ultimately, I think that children’s underlying sense of justice and fairness fuels their interest in the Revolutionary War. Taxation without representation is a big deal. What’s a little tricky is debunking the myth of the war from the facts. It’s easy to call Patriots good and England bad, but I needed to constantly remind children of how our role in the conflict can also be challenged and that we did awful things too. Further, not everyone was truly free as a result of the war. And, is it ever justified to use force to get what you want? Lots of big questions discussed.
So, to offer a going-out to the class without going to the East Coast, Mr. Justin enlisted Roy, a Revolutionary War historical re-enactor whom he had met and thought the children would love. Justin, who was impressed by Roy’s knowledge of the Revolutionary War and military tactics, met the group at the Greentree Festival back in September and ended up talking to Roy for over an hour. Justin also couldn’t believe they had grenade launchers back then! And the rest is history!
They used to do presentations 2 – 3 times per month but have cut down quite a bit because of the cost of traveling and members retiring due to health. They used to have 30 members, now it’s down to about 8. They have been presenting since they formed in 1982, and have done presentations in Ontario, up and down the East Coast, Alabama, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Fort Niagara, and one of the largest reenacting festivals at Fort Massac, which gets over 100,000 visitors during the month of October. Their schedule is on their Facebook account “First Royal Regiment of Foot.”
They have a 3lb cannon, a 75 caliber musket and a 100 caliber musket that they have attached to a special wagon that Roy built based a set up from that time period. It flips up and has special ports that open which offer protection and stability when firing.
They have live fired all of their weapons including the 3lb cannon. Roy says they were doing target practice on milk jugs on top of 50 gallon water barrels at 50 yards. The milk jugs explode and if you hit a water barrel it will flip into the air!
Though this did not occur at the presentation in February, Roy did walk the students through the steps of firing a cannon (with only gunpowder, no cannon balls, of course!). His attention to detail and safety were noted.
The students enjoyed trying on some of the jackets and hats, and even some of the equipment that soldiers would have carried with them (a heavy load, to say the least). Last, the students learned to march in formation (not easy):
Mr. Justin marched them all back up the hill afterwards. Quite impressive! Thank you, Justin, for setting this up, and Roy, for bringing his knowledgeable group to share with the Villa di Maria Upper Elementary!