Fifth Graders Take On The War of 1812

Jun 19, 2013

A group shot of Patterson Park Charter students after they received a commemorative coin of the War of 1812 today at the Maryland Historical Society. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake presented the coins to the students. The fifth-grade students were the first to receive the coin for collecting the required 10 stamps in their 1812 passports, from sites along the Star Spangled Banner Trail. The studied about the War of 1812 over the past year.
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn

Patterson Park Public Charter School fifth graders spent their school year learning about the War of 1812, inside and outside the classroom. And yesterday they were rewarded for their efforts with the first of the city’s commemorative War of 1812 coins, presented by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake.

Over the course of the year, the students took field trips to museums in Baltimore and the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington. They visited Ft. McHenry and went to the park for lessons. And they learned about the battle that was fought across the street from their school in Patterson Park.

They put together a video that included students dressed in period clothing and playing the roles of  British and American soldiers and even Francis Scott Key, as he wrote a poem, the Defence of Ft. McHenry, that later became this country’s National Anthem. 

They also acted out scenes of various battles in the video, including the one that was fought at Patterson Park, which was known in the 1800s as Hampstead Hill, and sits across the street from the school. Kiasia Hall wore an American uniform in the video and described her battle scene.

“We were hiding behind trees in the park and then we ran out and started killing the British,” she said.  Amaris Johnson made the British uniform she wore in the video scenes, but it wasn’t the one she wanted to wear.  “It was fun but I really wanted to be American, because you know, United States, yeah,” she said with a laugh.

Before this year, many students didn’t know that American soldiers turned back a British land invasion at Hampstead Hill, in September 1814.  “I’m actually I glad I found out it’s a part of Patterson Park,” said Amaris, who looks at the park a bit differently these days, now that she knows of its significance.

Liz Gutting, a Patterson Park fifth grade reading teacher says the year-long project has been a great experience for teachers and students.  “It makes it more exciting for the children to know this is in their backyard and all of this history is here and creates a much greater depth for learning,” Gutting said.  Gutting said city school officials asked the teachers to take on the 1812 project when she and other teachers were developing lessons on the bicentennial.  “We’d already been talking about the Bicentennial coming up and different thing we were going to do to prepare the students to be out and about in Baltimore so students could learn about this time period out in Baltimore,” she said. “Being a part of this project made it come together.”

(l-r) Amaris Johnson, Gabriel Collazo, teacher Liz Gutting and James Holley. The fifth graders spent the past year studying about the War of 1812 in every subject.
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn / WYPR

Kiasia said the field trips helped her understand the war better.  “Because you’re learning from books, but when we went outside and actually saw and re-enacted, that’s when I had a visual of it,” she said.  The students learned more than history, Gutting said. They used skills from other subjects as well. In music class, they learned to play the fife and drums that were often heard on the battlefield and in their video.  They used math skills to determine the correct angles to use in making the wood and plastic muskets for the re-enactments.  Gabriel Collazo says it was challenging.  “They had to carve the wood and to polish it was hard because you didn’t want to get a lot on and you didn’t want to get less on,” said Gabriel Collazo. “You wanted it just right”.

And as a reward for their hard work and being first to collect stamps in their passport books from sites along the War of 1812 Trail, the students received a commemorative coin from the mayor.  “I often hear people say that history is the last thing children have an interest in, but that’s not true,” Rawlings-Blake said in handing out the awards. “These fifth graders produced a video, created period clothing and many other things in this exciting project. And this fifth-grade class was the first to complete their passport books with 10 stamps.”

The students say they hope the National Park Service will have the historical marker they designed for Patterson Park in place when a new set of fifth graders takes up the 1812 lessons next year.  “The marker is something that they created that will be there throughout history and for future generations to see,” Gutting said. “It was important for them to give back to the community and having this lasting marker is one way they did that. It will have a long-lasting impact for so many others.”

This story is part of our series “Rockets’ Red Glare: The War, the Song and Their Legacies,” made possible by a grant from Star Spangled 200, a national bicentennial in Maryland.

Here is a video made by students and teachers at Patterson Park Public Charter School, chronicling the events of the War of 1812 and the students' year of study: