Imagine a room of students dressed in American revolutionary period clothing seated around three sides of the room and a talented professional entertainer backed by an array of circa 1700s flags on the fourth side.
With the flags are muskets, chests and assorted objects used to make history come alive as the story of the American Revolution unfolds.
Lutz engages the students, joking and asking if they are ready. They seem to have forgotten that interested parents are packed around the perimeter.
Students on each side of the room make up a team of Redcoats, White Tories or Blue Rebels who can earn points for their team with an outstanding performance. The animated storyteller calls upon her costumed characters to describe the documents and demonstrate the passions that led to the birth of the nation. It is dramatic. Sometimes it is funny or sad, but always engaging and educational.
After a re-enactment of the Boston Massacre, it is quiet.
“I am going to say a bad word,” the presenter whispers. “Who knows what the colonists called the English soldiers?” There is a suspenseful silence when no one can guess the right answer. “Lobsterbacks! Lobsters were considered the cockroaches of the sea. They were fed to dogs and cats.”
In the corner of the room, one parent discreetly asks another, “Did you know that?”
Lutz’ students began to prepare three weeks beforehand, becoming “experts” on the historic document assigned to them, gathering clothing and Revolutionary War props to bring, and envisioning the mindset of the factions involved. “By the time the day arrived, they were so excited,” Lutz said.
The day following the presentation, Lutz talked about the experience with her class. “Their information output was incredible … so much more than if we went on a field trip. “They (the students) said, ‘We really had a fun time.’ We’ll do it again.”
Las Juntas Principal Crystal Castaneda was impressed. “The Parent Teacher Association normally pays for the bus for a field trip once a year for all the grades. This year they decided to sponsor this learning experience. It’s like a field trip without going anywhere,” Castaneda said.
The “field trip” was a bonus for students visiting from Las Juntas Elementary School’s sister school in Benxi, China. They became part of American history, March 28, 2017.
According to Melanie Piñon of California Weekly Explorer, Rice Don Oliver and his wife Betty initiated “Walk Through” presentations in the early 1980s as a way for 4th grade California history to become an experience. Eventually, he was invited to give the presentations at various schools. The company, named for Oliver’s original publication, now has 17 professional presenters in California who perform “Walk Through” programs on California History, the American Revolution, and the Ancient World.