5th Grade Civil War Project

March 14, 2012 at 10:30 pm 2 comments

2-day residency with 5th graders.
Girls and boys are in separate classes.
They are studying the Civil War.

So after I told stories about the boys their age who found a way to enlist or sneak into the army and fight in the Civil War — either as buglers or drummer boys, flag bearers or possibly even given a musket — after I told stories about the women who were spies and nurses and disguised themselves as men to serve as soldiers — we brought it back to the girls their age (in the girl classes), the ones left behind to help on the farm or keep the family business going.
Their job was to be one of the girls left at home, worried about a brother or father or uncle. Those girls and their mothers might have been part of a quilting circle, making quilts for the soldiers. Some of those quilts were embroidered with inspirational messages before sent off.

The girls were given the (paper) quilt pieces and a pattern for putting them together. Then they were challenged to write a poem as their embroidered message. The poem was based on a Hopi poem I had found in the pattern of ‘Hold on to …. Even if ….’.

The ‘Even if ….’ part of the poem came from the stories they’d just heard about the boy soldiers — the heart of the Civil War, not just the facts.
The ‘Hold on to …’ part of the poem was their challenge — to put themselves into that time and place and encourage the boys to keep hope.

Wow. The quilts were gorgeous. The handwritten poetry was awesome.
Here’s what they shared when I returned a week later:

Hold on to the taste of Grandma’s warm cinnamon strudel.
Even if you have nothing to eat.

Hold on to the sound of your children laughing.
Even if all you can hear is bullets whizzing by.

Hold on to how hard you laughed when Aunt Isabella told that joke.
Even if you are scared to death.

Hold on to sunshine.
Even if the sky is filled with gray clouds.

Hold on to warm summer breezes.
Even if there are bullets in the air.

Hold on to hot apple pies.
Even if all you have to eat is hardtack.

Hold on to fireflies in June, and catching them in dusty peach jars.
Even if all the light is gone.

Hold on to skating on Mr. McGregor’s pond in the winter and going home to hot cocoa and cookies.
Even if the nights are dull and the food is scarce.

Hold on to our fun nights in the hayloft.
Even if your nights are on the ground.

Hold on to swimming in the river with your family when the birds chirped and laughter was everywhere.
Even if you are in battle with bullets whizzing by and blood on the ground.

Hold on to collecting leaves on a cool autumn day with your brothers.
Even if you are sweating in the hot sun or freezing on a cold night.

Hold on to last year’s Christmas dinner.
Even if all you get to eat is dry, crusty hard tack and goober peas.

Hold on to dancing in the firelight.
Even if there’s no fire keeping you warm tonight.

Hold on to planting the oak tree in the backyard and catching fish at the swimming hole and swinging on the old birch vine.
Hold on to the flowers we picked and the stones we skipped in the river and the day I beat you at checkers.
Hold on to the day you kissed your daughter and the songs we sang and the laughter of your family.
Hold on. Hold on.

               

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Entry filed under: Just Do It -- Stories from the Field, Teaching Artist. Tags: , , .

3rd Graders Collect Family Stories One Chance to Tell You

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