"It's a wonderful way to end the school year," said fifth grade teacher, Kathy Bacon, on the long hike up the hill to Friday."It's a gorgeous day and we've ordered 80 pizzas!"
But the students had to work, too. Five 'learning' stations were set up by staff to engage the students in the life of a soldier during the Civil War. Activities included flag signaling, cipher disks and coding and artillery. Students also learned about the uniforms worn by the soldiers and what they carried with them to battle in their Civil War 'haversack.'
A soldier's haversack contained items the soldiers needed, including a toothebrush made out of bone and horse or pig bristles, cooking and eating utensils and a wallet, among other things. Reproductions were used by museum staff to demonstrate various items used during the war. Students also learned a Confederate soldier was paid $11 a month, while Union soldiers generally received a $13 stipend.
About 200 students (a quarter of the school) walked from to the fort, where they first received an introduction to the history of the location by Manassas Museum staff member Lisa Sievel-Otten before dividing into five groups for the hands-on portion of the program.
Students learned the Confederacy chose the Mayfield Fort site because it is located on a hill and they "could see if the enemy was coming." The site is also near a stream for drinking water and the. Signal Hill is adjacent to the fort site and was also used by Confederate soldiers with telescopes to signal—using flags and laterns— the fort that the Union was approaching the battlefield.
Friday's program lasted about two hours before the students enjoyed a picnic on blankets spread out around the fort site.
Fifth graders learn about geography, including the area of Manassas, according to Bacon. She said they will be able to apply what they've learned all year and today when they learn about the Civil War in sixth grade.