TURLOCK — Dutcher Middle School students spent Thursday in the 1860s as part of their annual Civil War curriculum.
The hands-on event had Civil War re-enactors and presenters come on campus to show students everything from how to dress a field wound to weave a basket to swing their partner round and round. This is the third year the school's eighth-graders have been participating in Civil War Day to coincide with their classroom studies on the subject.
Some 330 students rotated through nine stations throughout the day, ranging from cavalry to medicine, square dancing to marching drills and science to games. Some of the students dressed up in period costumes, such as 14-year-old Madison Wallace, whose grandmother made her dress with her.
"I like history, so I thought it would be a good experience," she said. "This has been a lot of fun. It's been fascinating to see some of this stuff."
Dutcher Principal Scott Lucas said the day always coincides with the two or so weeks the students spend studying the Civil War in the classroom.
"The real-life application and fact they get to experience this stuff hands-on, what it was like to be a soldier or wife during the Civil War, makes it so much stronger," Lucas said. "They can always read it in a textbook, but now they get to experience it."
Lucas said the day also gives students more out-of-classroom education time, something that has become rare as schools and districts cut funding for field trips.
The Washington-state-based group Presenters of Living History, led by Patrick Franz, has been coming to campus for the past three years for the event. The re-enactors come dressed in traditional time period garb, from Union cavalry uniforms to dresses with bonnets.
For the students who dressed up, too, the clothing took a little getting used to. Fourteen-year-old Charley Baptista wore a hoop skirt and blouse her grandmother made. But the hoop, which measures a few feet across, posed a challenge.
"The car ride here was fun," she said facetiously. "But I'm really enjoying the day."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter, @turlocknow.