Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
The Frontier Army Museum hosted 103 eighth-grade students from Patton Junior High School March 30. The excursion was a partial fulfillment of the American history course research requirement to complete a museum project assignment about the Civil War.
Social studies teacher Lori Wilcox provided a checklist for her students to use as a reference, along with a rubric that will be used to grade the finished individual projects. Although they had 10 weeks to complete the projects, she said one eager student completed his exhibit about steam-propelled ironclad warships in only one week.
“The Civil War museum project required students to pick topics. They used class time to research, and each one had the option to work with a partner or alone,” Wilcox said. “I look forward to seeing all of their finished results.”
Wilcox said she gave the eighth-graders creative freedom in the visual presentation aspects of their individual exhibit topics.
“I’ve got students doing dioramas, I’ve got them doing models, girls who are doing soldiers’ journals and letters, students who are making actual recipes that soldiers used for meals they ate in camp, and students who are exhibiting a real camp consisting of a tent and field hospital,” Wilcox said. “They have lots of great ideas to share with everyone during our museum project.”
International students Guillermo Castro from Chile and Daniel Robayo from Colombia said they decided to work as partners. They chose the topic of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence to create an exhibit.
“We used a PowerPoint presentation to depict our research of the facts,” Robayo said. “And we want to portray images of the city as well.”
Castro said it was interesting learning the various factors that caused the Civil War.
“It is fascinating to find out these details,” Castro said. “The research process was fun.”
Wilcox said a primary purpose of the outing was for her six classes to see how a working museum operates. She organized the museum field trip as a research opportunity for the students.
“This is the first time I’ve done this type of project. Normally, we’ve done a history day fair where students made tri-fold posters covering some of the history topics we’ve studied,” Wilcox said. “This year I decided to (have students) create a museum about the Civil War as something different.”
Wilcox said learning how the FAM exhibits are developed and displayed would assist students in preparing their individual displays for the Civil War Museum Project assignment.
Museum specialists Russell Ronspies and Megan Hunter served as expert docents for the students. Classes visited the museum in the morning and afternoon.
Page 2 of 2 - “I know a lot of my students have been to museums, but I wasn’t sure if they knew what goes into a museum,” Wilcox said. “It’s being reinforced here that an exhibit is at least two-fold, visual or artifact, and the research that accompanies it.”
Student Warner Johnson said he enjoyed learning about how the battles ultimately shaped the outcome of the war itself, and the various tactics and strategies deployed. He said a portion of his exhibit involves a diorama about the Battle of Chancellorsville.
“I not only wanted to learn how they did what they did, but also why,” Johnson said. “This is the battle where (Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas J.) ‘Stonewall’ Jackson was killed by friendly fire, and both sides suffered heavy casualties.”
Wilcox said the Civil War is among the largest topics studied by her students and her approach is to teach the various aspects of the conflict in relevant detail.
“Students learn quite a bit of information during this class, including what led to the Civil War,” Wilcox said. “We talk about the Kansas-Nebraska Act, popular sovereignty, Abraham Lincoln (being elected), the southern states succeeding — everything leading up to the first shots (being fired).”
The Civil War project assignment is due April 10. The students will install the exhibit in the school’s small gymnasium April 11.
The Civil War museum project exhibition at Patton Junior High School runs from April 12-13 during the school day for students, with a special admission and showing for parents 5-6:30 p.m. April 13. For more information, visit the school website at http://patton.usd207.org/.