Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Get Taste of Pioneer Life; Heritage Days at Beauclerc Elementary

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Get Taste of Pioneer Life; Heritage Days at Beauclerc Elementary

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Staff writer

Overhead, two Navy F/A-18 jets roared by in close formation, a sign of the 21st century winging its way to Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

But on the playground below at Beauclerc Elementary School Thursday and Friday, it was the 19th century all over again, as 1,300 students took part in Florida Heritage Days.

Teachers dressed in homespun pioneer dresses and bonnets led students though nine stations scattered around the grassy playground, some taking part in 1800s-vintage games like hopscotch and nine pins, while others met historic re-enactors.

Teacher Jane Henderson said the event, set up to teach students about Florida's early pioneer days, has taught her students a lot about early Florida's history, music and heritage. But would they give up their Playstations for hopscotch and marbles?

"It would be a hard, hard thing to go back to," she said.

The school used funds generated from PTA gift-wrap sales last year to hire performers to weave cloth, tell stories and sing period songs. That included Swamp Owl, a Leesburg resident who called himself "Semi-Hawk" -- part Seminole and part Mohawk Indian. Outfitted as a Seminole Indian from the 1800s, he lived on campus for a few days in a simple tent suspended on cut tree limbs, a candle lantern hung from one end, piles of blankets and animals skins inside.

"It sure is nice out today; better than sitting in a classroom," he said to passing students. "I have been sleeping in these shelters for 25 years or so."

As two pots warmed over a smoky fire and his horse munched hay in a corral nearby, students asked him multiple questions as the breeze rippled the feathers in his rumpled top hat.

"Where did you get that gun," asked one kindergartner.

"Is that horse real," asked another.

Over at a long table on the basketball court, parent volunteer Kelly Pritchard showed second-graders how to use quill pens -- feathered fountain pens of old made from turkey feathers, dipped in black ink poured into ceramic bowls.

"You will write like the kids did in the olden days. Do you think the teachers had a whole bunch of crayons and pencils," she said. …

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