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Erwin students bring their studies to life

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By Jesef Williams

Fifth-grader Rolando Blair likes history, but says it's more fun when you get to act out what you've learned in the classroom.

And getting the chance to wear a raccoon hat isn't that bad either.

Blair and other fifth-graders at Erwin Elementary School presented a living history of the United States' westward expansion Thursday in the school's cafeteria.

Those students have been studying history of the 1800s and were able to dramatize different groups of people living in the country at that time. Students played miners, pioneers, Native Americans, cowboys or railroad workers.

Blair played a pioneer whose job was to work the plow. He realizes that life back then was much different than today.

"The pioneers had different lives and different kinds of jobs," said Blair, who wore a raccoon's hat to complement his outfit and plow. "You would have to do all this plowing in the sun."

The dramatizations were part of the school's Family Fun Night, in which parents are invited to come and see projects the students have worked on.

"This is a good way to get the parents involved and let them know the children are learning," said fifth-grade teacher Carol Lee. "Children learn better when they're actually doing."

The westward expansion program Thursday had different stations in which the students, dressed in their appropriate attire, talked about their role and that person's way of life in the 1800s.

Jason Waldon, wearing boots, jeans and a bandanna, was eager to tell people who he was.

"I'm a cowboy," said Waldon, whose display was complete with pans and twigs for an old-fashioned camp fire.

Ginger Warren, a fifth-grade teacher, says those demonstrations allow students to better internalize information they learn because they're verbalizing it and sharing it with others. In turn, they often perform better on standardized tests, she says.

"The kids that participate in this excel in the PACT (Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test) in social studies," Warren said. "It helps them remember the facts."

In the spring, the fifth-graders will dress up as figures during World War II and give a similar performance for their parents.