I wish I had a teacher in middle school as dedicated to teaching Social Studies as Ms. Marci Olsen at Desert Shadows Middle School in Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ. She developed a unit for all 7th grade students surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg. It has gotten more elaborate each year. I first experienced this unit 3 years ago with my oldest son. Each student spends weeks researching a person whom they will portray in the culminating event of this unit. They write letters home, they must do a project which involves either creating a replica of a weapon, uniform, or flag from the Civil War era. Aaron made a rifle and a flag.
The culminating event is a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. I was unable to experience this the last time due to having three small children at home. However, Neil attended and it is indeed an awesome sight. This year my second son is in 7th grade and is a Union soldier. Not to be outdone by his older brother, his project of choice was to build a cannon. This is not a minitiaurized version of the real thing. It is big. It is green. It is very realistic looking. In fact, because of its massive size, construction had to be moved to the front yard because there is no way it would fit either through the house or through the gate to the back yard.
Tomorrow morning at 8 am at the park adjacent to the Middle School the troops will fall in. Students will be graded on the authenticity of their projects, their knowledge of key events and causes, and their ability to once again fight the Civil War. Although history books tell us that the North prevailed in the original battle, there is no guarantee that this year's war will have the same outcome.