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Students get their hands on history

Alissa Widman Neese • Feb 13, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Cameron Gillum, a Danbury Schools third-grader, is quite the history buff.

Baltimore, Gettysburg, Put-in-Bay, Washington D.C.— he’s seen it all, and he’s learned quite a lot in the process, too.

But on Friday, when a special visitor stopped by his history class, even Cameron was wowed by the demonstration.

“That looks like Perry’s jacket,” Cameron said with a smile, eagerly watching as his classmates dressed in military attire akin to U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.

National Park Service ranger Rob Whitman, from Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, visited Danbury Schools elementary students Friday for the hands-on history lesson.

Whitman educated students about the local region’s role in the War of 1812, specifically during the Battle of Lake Erie, fought just off South Bass Island’s shore.

Some students dressed up in combat clothing, while others represented warships. Whitman helped them navigate the classroom to act out the battle.

To conclude his lesson, Whitman told students about Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, constructed on South Bass Island between 1912 and 1915.

The monument, more than 350 feet tall, honors those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, and also celebrates long-lasting peace between Britain, Canada and the U.S. It’s named after the U.S. naval commander.

“It represents the most important thing that came out of the War of 1812 — peace, and a friendly relationship along that border” Whitman told the students.

The monument became part of the National Park Service in 1936 and is situated five miles from the longest undefended border in the world, according to its website.

Teacher Vickie Kukay arranged the lesson for her third-grade and fourth-grade history students Friday as a special supplement to their annual lessons on local history and the War of 1812.

She plans to culminate the studies with a third-grade trip to Put-in-Bay in May, with an official tour of the monument and possibly a musket firing demonstration.

“I’m really excited,” third-grader Canna Stephens said. “I think we’re going to learn a lot”

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