Bayshore Elementary students learn from local historians in honor of Independence Day

mdelaney@bradenton.comJuly 1, 2014 

MANATEE

With historians representing a number of different wars, Bayshore Elementary School students are brushing up on their history lessons in anticipation of Independence Day on Friday.

About 65 Bayshore students are participating in the 21st Century Summer Enrichment Program, a free program for students funded by a federal grant. The enrichment program, run by Meg Durshimer for Bayshore, also runs after-school during the year.

During the summer, Durshimer looks for programs that might be more fun and engaging for students.

"We want them to understand the significance of July 4," she said.

With representatives from eras including the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War, students learned Monday how the country changed and advanced during each war. The representatives were dressed in garb typical of their time period, and students got to try on and touch different pieces of equipment and toys after listening to the presentation.

Lela Hartsaw and her family represented the Civil War era in American history. Hartsaw was dressed in mourning clothes and talked about the death of a child. She discussed with students that modern medicine didn't exist back then, and people often got very ill.

Hartsaw also showed off the wooden toys children played with in those times, since plastic didn't exist yet.

Kevin Gonzales represented a soldier from World War I and talked to students about advances made during that war. Gonzales showed off his tin hat, which offered better protection than the soft caps worn by those fighting in the Civil War.

"In war, you learn and you try to make things work better," he told students.

Lee Stephens, a Vietnam veteran, spoke about his time in the war, when he flew helicopters. He looks forward to talking with the students.

"I want history to be preserved as true as it can be," Stephens said. "I've got a job to do."

Stephens said he tries to bring his presentations to the students' level, so he likes to talk about helicopters with them because most are familiar with that aircraft.

For students, interacting with Stephens was the most interesting part of the program.

"He's the real deal," said Juan Reyes, 10, who will enter fifth grade in August.

Shiya Kenney, 10, who will enter fifth grade at Bayshore in August, was surprised at how young Stephens was when he began fighting. Stephens was 18.

"You want to know all the people who helped your country," Shiya said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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