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Pupils Discover Harsh Reality of Colonial Times

March 07, 1998|DAWN HOBBS and LISA FERNANDEZ

Fifth-grade boys and girls who played together or called each other names at Rio Mesa Elementary School in Camarillo received lashes from a black leather riding crop Friday.

With the braided feather tip, that is, and over their knuckles.

"Had this been real colonial days, their knuckles would be red and they'd be in tears," said fifth-grade teacher Mary Lang.

The exercise capped a two-month unit on America before the Revolutionary War.

Dressed in colonial garb they created, about 50 students spent the morning making butter and biscuits, cornhusk dolls and tin lanterns.

They also practiced calligraphy, needlepoint, stenciling and dipping candles.

Children played the parts of settlers, loyalists and Native Americans.

"I have to go in the back of the line all the time," said Kim Crouch, who took the role of a Native American. "I have to stay quiet, there's only one other Indian around I can talk to and we have to eat last. It makes you feel like you don't fit in."

Children learned not only about social injustice but also how difficult it was to survive.

"It's so easy to just go to the store and buy something off the shelf, but they didn't have those modern conveniences," said Jeff Kent, who earlier had received 14 lashings for teasing a girl.

At Weathersfield Elementary School in Thousand Oaks on Thursday night, fifth-graders acted out life in 18th-century Williamsburg, Va.

Three classes of 10-year-olds told their parents and classmates what life was like in the late 1700s. They showed their guests a wig shop, a bakery, a printing press, a church--all transformed from cardboard refrigerator boxes.

Graham Pont proudly described his role as a gunsmith. "We learned a lot," he said, "especially about the tools."

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