In the “What Ever Happened to…” series, reporters will explain what happened to some of Country Day’s former traditions. Check back tomorrow for another installment.
In spring 2011, if you looked across the soccer field, you might see fifth graders dressed in Civil War uniforms, waving Union and Confederate flags and drilling in formation to the beat of a drum.
And on the day of the reenactment, the headmaster would dress up as Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg Address.
Under Alice Levy, former fifth-grade humanities teacher, the fifth grade would close their study of the Civil War by choreographing and performing a military parade and reenacting the battle of Gettysburg at Oak Meadow Park.
“I distinctly remember Civil War Day as being the first and last day I will ever be able to have fun dressing up like a Confederate soldier.
“Admittedly, I think we were all disappointed that we had to be the bad guys, but that didn’t stop us from throwing everything we had into it.
“I remember being super disappointed I didn’t get to be a general, especially Ulysses S. Grant. I think the reasons for that should be obvious.
“We did a lot of elaborate drills, including one where we all formed the shape of a Confederate flag. Not exactly historically accurate, but, hey, never underestimate the ability of a child to get pumped up about slavery.
“The fighting was distinctly weird, and the fake blood felt distinctly weirder.
“I guess (former SCDS student) Barrett Davis was told he was Jesus Christ incarnated as a Union soldier, because that guy never seemed to die or stay dead when he was shot.”
Amy Velder, Levy’s successor as fifth-grade humanities teacher, decided to have her students create a movie script about the Civil War instead, said Christy Vail, head of lower school.
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“I was assigned the part of medic, and I had to make a bunch of fake blood at home. When I went to the actual reenactment, I went kind of overboard with the fake blood. Everyone looked like they were hemorrhaging all over the place. It would have been very horrific if it (hadn’t been) so funny.
“My only other memory was dying on the battlefield. I actually ended up falling asleep on the grass, and people had to come wake me up!”
Vail said they filmed the movie on Country Day’s “back lot” with a professional crew donated by a family.
Students acted in the film, performed voice-overs and created props and costumes. Subsequent films were shot at a family’s professional video studio, using green-screen technology.
The students also wrote a song for the movie each year. They celebrated their movie’s premiere with a gala evening dinner and screening in the Edwards Plaza.
But this year, Gretchen Fogelstrom, the new fifth-grade humanities teacher, will be facilitating team debates such as “North vs. South” and “Lee vs Grant.” The debates will be conducted in front of the parents.
In addition, groups of students will write rhyming poems based on a timeline of Civil War events, according to Fogelstrom. They will perform those as raps while dancing in costume – also in front of the parents.
“(It’s) inspired by the musical ‘Hamilton’!” Vail said.