Event brings history to life for students

Published 12:54 am Friday, April 27, 2012

With temperatures in the 80s Thursday, hundreds of parents, students and teachers attending the annual Battle of Selma’s school days line up to get a cool bottle of root beer or sarsaparilla. -- Tim Reeves

For many students, the history lessons they are taught are those that appear on the pages of a textbook or by the hands of a teacher on the board. For hundreds of area and regional students Thursday, history — and their lessons — came alive during the annual Battle of Selma school days.

The annual school days, which include events today at the battlefield, will attract nearly 1,400 students, giving them hands-on exposure to camp life, weaponry and the clothing styles of the mid to late 1800s.

“The guys love the weapons and the girls are into the music,” Montgomery Academy fourth grade resource teacher Bobbie Woodward said. Montgomery Academy, which attends the school days each year, brought 71 students this time. “This event is so fun because of the variety of things the children get to see and do.”

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As president of the April 1865 Society, James Hammonds oversees the annual battle weekend and is thrilled each year with the turnout for the school days.

“There are certain schools that have never missed a school days event and in fact, some of the schools here today have already registered for next year’s Battle,” Hammonds said.

For Woodard, a Chicago native, the annual trip to Selma — this being her fifth visit — gives her a chance to learn more about the state’s history.

“Originally from Chicago, but these teachers at Montgomery Academy are fabulous and I myself have really learned a lot about Alabama history,” Woodward said. “But for me, the biggest thrill, is seeing the kids’ eyes light up and of course, watching them hold their ears and brace themselves when the cannon goes off.”

Joining Woodard at Thursday’s first school days, was fellow Montgomery Academy teacher, fourth grade teacher Jane Crenshaw. Thursday’s visit marked Crenshaw’s 16th consecutive years.

“It is a great experience because we talk about Alabama history, we learn a lot about the Civil War. We start out with the Indians coming across the land bridge. So, they’ve heard so much about it, they know what to expect,” Crenshaw said. “I look forward to seeing these children enjoy it. I think these children come to fourth grade thinking history is boring — Alabama history is boring — and then they get to come here and it ends up being their favorite subject. They love it.”

As for the main battle events scheduled for the rest of the week, Hammonds said re-enactors are continuing to register.

“Right now, we are looking at more than 600 participants,” Hammonds said. “That figure includes the re-enactors, vendors and bands.”

While the flash and bangs of the re-enactments on Saturday and Sunday might bring the headlines, battle events are spread out over the weekend, including the annual Civil War Writer’s Forum scheduled for Friday evening at the ArsRevive Carneal building at 3 Church Street. This event, in partnership with the April 1865 Society, will begin at 5 p.m. and will feature authors Denise Weimer, Charles Misulia and Selma native William Lockridge.

Books from these authors will be available for purchase and signing and light refreshments will be served.