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Staley Students Experience Valley Forge (December, 2007)

Michelle Burrell as Deborah Sampson, woman who dressed as man to fight for three years The eighth grade teachers at Staley Middle School used the day before Winter Break to teach students about another long ago winter – the winter at Valley Forge.

The study of the harsh winter of the Revolutionary War was taught in all subjects. History, math, science, English and social studies integrated the work to learn about a variety of issues. The students learned about the miles marched and the weight carried by the soldiers. They also learned about the medicine of the day and the diseases that attacked the troops. Students wrote “letters from home” to revolutionary soldiers and teachers dressed up as colonial characters, including Principal Dennis McDonald who was King George III. Occasionally, “King George” would send royal admonishments to the unruly colonists in the eighth grade hall and the library, urging them to give up the fight. Teacher Michelle Burrell dressed as Deborah Sampson, a woman who dressed as a man and fought for three years undetected. She received an honorable discharge from George Washington.

Students carrying cloth bags filled to represent the weight of the knapsacks and muskets soldiers carried, marched in circles through the library to get a feel for what Washington’s army experienced. Others sat by a fake log fire and read the letters from home. In other classes, quiz games were held.

Missy Carpenter, Staley history teacher, coordinated the winter in Valley Forge event, assisting teachers with ideas for costumes, posters and ways to integrate the event into classes.