The crack of musket fire, the scent of a camp fire, the steady beat of a drum alerting soldiers to action—these are just some of the sights, sounds and smells Hillside Elementary School students experienced on Friday, Oct. 5 as they traveled back in time to the days of the American Revolution.
Members of the Rehoboth Minutemen set up camp behind the school and offered students in grades 3-6 a close-up look at what life was like for a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Students moved in groups between six different stations, where they heard a military officer talk about his experience, saw the comparatively cramped quarters of the average soldier, held some of the medical tools from the late 1700s (from an old-fashioned hearing aid to false teeth), heard the sounds of the fife and drum, saw real muskets and sat around a campfire watching soldiers make candlesticks and musket balls.
“We’ve been doing this for about 17 years,” said Al Soucey, captain of the Rehoboth Minutemen. “We’re here to teach the kids about the American Revolution, because we feel that they’re not getting in classrooms what they need to. So we bring them out here and give them the feel, the taste and the smell of what life and the camp of a Revolutionary War soldier was like and tell them some of the truth that they’re not going to get in books about what war is like.”
Soucey and his unit didn’t mince words in their descriptions of life on and near the battlefield, describing many of the harsh realities such as a soldier seeing his brother shot down in front him or how military doctors performed a huge number of amputations in those days.
The program was funded with a grant from the Needham Education Foundation.
A group of Hillside parents that look for grant funding both internally and externally discovered the program after it was done in nearby Westwood.
“We were just really attracted to it, so we proposed it to the teachers, and they loved it,” said Liz Lee, a parent of two Hillside students.
The program ties right in with Needham curriculum—third graders study the history of Needham and fifth graders learn about the American Revolution.
But kids weren’t the only ones getting a lesson or two last Friday.
“I didn’t know that the drum actually regulated [soldier activities], almost like a clock. It told them when they had to get water, when it was time to eat,” Lee said. “I’ve learned a lot today.”