Ye olde history unit comes to life

Lakeside fifth-grader Liam Boyle, in full Colonial regalia, declared his wig ‘itchy’

Colonial Day has become a rite of passage for Lakeside Elementary fifth-graders.

Take Kera Murphy, who has been waiting to wear the pale lace dress her older sister wore when she participated at Lakeside a couple years ago.

Lakeside fifth-grader Ezra Fechtner’s costume was handmade by his grandmother

“She didn’t tell me anything about what they did, just that it was fun,” Kera said.

And Ezra Fechtner looked rather dashing in a coat, breeches, hat and cravat made by his grandmother and previously worn by his uncle and older brother.

Fifth-graders in Brett Scheidel, Kristen Lecours and Kealynn Benham’s classrooms finally got their reward as part of the culmination of their eight-week social studies unit studying the 13 U.S. colonies.

They took turns taking part in Colonial-era activities, where parent volunteers helped them sew, weave, do calligraphy, learn to tin-stamp, have their silhouettes drawn and practice making shadow animals — just as their 17th and early 18th Century counterparts did.

It’s as difficult as it looks, Lakeside fifth-grader Ava Mathis tells teacher Kristen Lecours

Around mid-day, students and parent volunteers enjoyed a Colonial feast of traditional food from the period. Later, it was Colonial math games, making wampum necklaces and playing other games with their younger student buddies.

“Since the beginning of fourth grade I have looked forward to this,” Ezra said.

One part of modern-day life he wishes he could swap with Colonial children: “Not as much video games,” he said. “They thought of a lot of fun games back then.”

What he would not trade with kids of yesteryear: “Some of their families had enough (money) to go to school, and some of them couldn’t, so child labor was hard.”

Scheidel said the school has been holding Colonial Day at least since he began teaching there 14 years ago. “They’ve had a lot of instruction to this point, learning about what life was like in those days,” Scheidel said.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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