Pacific students eagerly learn to revolt

by Danny Brown
Published February 21, 2008

Fifth graders at Pacific Elementary have had anything but a textbook education when it comes to the American Revolution.

Last Thursday and Friday approximately 97 students sat on the edge of their seats for over two-and-a-half hours while Jason Sluyter of California Weekly Explorer Inc. retold the history of how America gained its independence from England. The kids donned tri-cornered hats, cotton-ball beards and knee high breeches to reenact a part of the story.

“I like this a lot better than if I was reading it,” said fifth grader Dylan Tyrer, who played the role of George Washington. “By playing along instead of just flipping through pages, I’m able to remember more of the details.”

“Walk Through the American Revolution,” is one of three interactive historical programs the company offers to students during the school year. The content varies upon grade level, with the fourth graders doing a walk-through of California’s history and the sixth graders participating in the ancient worlds of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Students had a little more than three weeks to prepare for their roles. During that time they each became experts on a vocabulary word, historical document or date, and memorized battles, which they then shared and performed in front of their classmates. Additionally each student took on the role of a famous man or woman from the American Revolution and acted the part when Sluyter mentioned their character’s name.

“This has been a tradition at Pacific for at least 10 years,” said fifth grade history teacher Susan Stelter. “It’s something the kids look forward to all year.”

Split into three groups of the Red Coats, White Tories, and Blue Rebels, friendly competition with the added incentive of lollipops and points for well-done performances and correctly answered questions, encouraged full participation.

Sluyter, who has worked for California Weekly Explorer since 1999 and oversees 250-300 programs a year, said he’s heard his share of strange questions, but he’s never had a time when a student was not excited to take part.

The program costs $300 per a class and is funded by the Pacific PTA. Although California Weekly Explorer does not advertise, there is a waiting list for the program. ER