South rises again

Michelle Mitchell
The Desert Sun
June 11, 2009

With a flurry of flour, the South defeated the North in the Battle of Gettysburg.

At least, that’s how it happened at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School’s reenactment of the famous three-day Civil War battle on Wednesday.

Though more red-shirted soldiers representing the South were left standing at the end of the battle, students had learned enough about history to know how it should have worked out, 11-year-old Kara Knowles explained.

It just turned out this time that more blue-shirted North soldiers got hit with the flour and tissue “ammunition” created by the students in their factories.

Plus, the South had strong leaders — a second focus of the activity, said fifth-grade teacher Kevin Colburn, who has been organizing the annual event for the Palm Desert school for the past eight years.

“It’s really a great training for these young leaders,” he said.

Jonathan Peña, 11, was excited and a little nervous about his role as General George Custer, who fought for the Union Army in the 1863 battle.

“It was a big honor doing it,” Jonathan said of portraying the historical figure famous for dying in battle, along with most of his men, against Lakota and Cheyenne Indian tribes in 1876 at Little Big Horn.

Ten-year-old Daniela Olivas was chosen by her classmates to portray Confederate General Jubal Early.

“Sometimes they listened to me, sometimes they didn’t,” she said.

But she raised her voice and learned who listened enough to be trusted with important factory tasks.

But the leadership skills and facts they learned about the war weren’t necessarily on students’ minds as they tossed flour ammo and fell giggling to the white-spattered grass.

“If they can throw flour at someone, that’s all they care about,” said Sue Joslin, whose son, Danny Lee, played Abraham Lincoln and read the Gettysburg Address at the end of the battle.

Still there were larger lessons in the two-week Social Studies project.

“This is total hands-on learning,” Principal Jill Garner said. “It is learning at its best.”

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