Students travel to Mackinac for history lesson

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 21, 2014

 Third-grade students of Walled Lake Elementary venture to Michigan’s historic sites in 2013, learning hands-on about Michigan’s economy, history and geography.

Third-grade students of Walled Lake Elementary venture to Michigan’s historic sites in 2013, learning hands-on about Michigan’s economy, history and geography.

WALLED LAKE — In conjunction with the state’s third-grade curriculum requirements, Walled Lake Elementary students will journey through Michigan on a unique, two-day adventure that incorporates Michigan’s economy, history and geography.

Seventy-three third-grade students, along with 30 parent chaperones and five faculty members, will travel to Hartwick Pines, Fort Michilimackinac State Park in Mackinaw City,  Sawmill Creek and Mackinac Island May 28-29.

Walled Lake Elementary originally offered the trip to the fourth-grade students in the early 2000s, but when the state restructured the curriculum, third-grade classes began studying Michigan’s economy and history, and the school reinstated the trip, according to Walled Lake Elementary Principal Linda Day. This is the fourth trip since the curriculum was reorganized.

“(The trip) really brings what we learned in the classroom to life for the kids,” said Lisa Olinger, a third-grade teacher at Walled Lake Elementary. “On our visit to Hartwick Pines, we have a nature walk where we’re able to look at the different plants and trees that we study. … And also, they have lumbering exhibits in the museum, so we’re able to visit the lumbering exhibits … which is a huge industry in Michigan.”

Prior to the trip, the students completed an informational report and selected one of the four places they will be visiting to research. They then created brochures, which they will compare to professional published brochures while on the trip.

While at Fort Michilimackinac State Park, the students will see what an actual village looked like during the 1700s and learn about how the Native Americans would use blankets and hide guns, as well as how they captured the fort from the British, Day said.

“Here’s the wonderful thing about the fort — when I was a kid back in the 1960s and I went there, it was a fence around an area. Now, they have been digging and they have found the actual footprints of different buildings, and they created these buildings,” Day said.

When the Native Americans took over Fort Michilimackinac, the British moved to Mackinac Island and created a new fort from wood that was sawed at Sawmill Creek, which was then floated to the island, Day explained.

“It’s just an amazing historical representation of what the children have been learning, and they get to really see it. For third-graders, to put your finger on history is pretty powerful,” she added.

Once on Mackinac Island, the group will tour the island by carriage and visit the fort. Following the historic guide, groups are the free to explore.

The trip costs $175 per kid, and to offset the price, the school held a cookie dough fundraiser in the fall and a bottle drive. Funds raised from the bottle drive will be distributed as scholarships to students with financial need. The school also applied for grants, and this year, the Mackinac State Historic Parks awarded the school $350 to cover park entry fees.

Because some students have never experienced a hotel, Olinger said that this trip introduces them to how the tourism industry works, and the teachers have organized the trip to minimize homesickness. One month prior to the trip, a meeting was held so parents could meet their child’s chaperone — one parent chaperones three students — and exchange phone numbers. While on the trip, the students will call their parents before they go to bed.

“A lot of times, kids will get together for playdates over the weekend to get to know their chaperone,” Olinger said. “(Homesickness) hasn’t been an issue because they’re having so much fun and they know they can call their (parents) at any time.”

The students will, as part of their homework assignments, write and send postcards to two family members before going to bed, Olinger added.

The trip is designed to be a constant flow of learning. In addition to the postcards, students are responsible for their own spending money, and after each historical visit, the students play a trivia game on the buses.

Besides the four historic locations, the students will learn about Michigan’s geography by traveling over the Mackinac Bridge and into the Upper Peninsula, and see two of Michigan’s Great Lakes.