Mountain View Voice

News - May 28, 2010

Kids get taste of colonial life at Bubb

by Emily Hamilton

"Join the navy!" shout two boys clad in cavalier shirts and tri-cornered hats. They stand at the entrance to WilliamsBubb, a corner of Mountain View's Bubb Elementary School that for the day has been transformed. Just for today, it's 1775 in Colonial Williamsburg.

Laughter, fake British accents and an instrumental rendition of "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here" can be heard halfway across the campus. Girls wearing mob-caps rush through the town gate and find themselves on the Castro Street of the 18th century. One can purchase a horseshoe for five schillings from the blacksmith or get a shave for one schilling at the Wig Shop.

Students hammer away at the cabinet maker's shop before heading to the general store to pick up supplies. Two rows of girls and boys, all with smiling faces, stand facing each other as they perform period dances at the center of WilliamsBubb.

"They're really excited to do this every year," said Adria Flores, one of the fifth grade teachers who organizes the event. "It's such a great way to get them interested in the history."

The fifth grade class recreates WilliamsBubb each year as part of their study of colonial America. The kids research the professions of the era and choose which role they want to play. There are bakers, soldiers, even apothecaries who "leech" their patients — with black licorice leeches — to "get all the bad blood out," one student said. They can also cure a sore throat with hyssop and honey.

Students also write colonial diaries from the perspective of a person from the time. One such historical figure, poet and former slave Phyllis Wheatley, sat at the tea shop doing needlepoint as she told her story.

"I was a slave, but I was freed from my master," the student playing Wheatley said. "People said I should be free because I'm a very good poet."

Flores said this hands-on approach helps students understand the curriculum.

"They see there's a reason to learn about the colonial history," she said. "They really get into the mindset of the people of the time period."

WilliamsBubb has been taking place annually for about 30 years, Flores said. and each year it keeps growing. About five years ago, a teacher build a set that looks like a 40-foot ship and it was added to the display. Costumes and sets are brought out each May for the event, which relies heavily on parent volunteers for set up and supervision.

The fifth graders all say they're having fun at WilliamsBubb. With the shooting of Redcoats, marching in regiments and enjoying root beer at the tavern, how could they not be? But not everyone is certain they would want to live in colonial America.

"If we did, then we wouldn't have electronics," one girl said. "That would be the downside."

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