Living in colonial times is no tea party | May 27, 2011 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - May 27, 2011

Living in colonial times is no tea party

Bubb students, teachers reenact life in colonial Williamsburg

by Nick Veronin

More than 500 students from Benjamin Bubb Elementary and other schools from the Mountain View Whisman district were transported back in time at the annual Colonial WilliamsBubb historical reenactment on May 20.

The daylong event, which one teacher described as the "culmination of an entire year's worth of social studies lessons," recruits the entire Bubb fifth-grade class, along with instructors and parent volunteers, to act out a day in the life in colonial Williamsburg, Va.

Tucked away in the southwest corner of the school, between a row of classrooms and the school's baseball diamond, an arching portal transports visitors back to the Virginia colony circa 1775.

Fifth-graders dressed in tri-corner hats, bonnets, coats, breeches, gowns and aprons milled about the fantasyland or tended various shops, which included a blacksmith, a silversmith, a bakery, a candle maker, a tavern, a schoolhouse and a general store.

Class by class, students from every grade level are first greeted by Bubb fifth-grade teacher Robert Poling, who sets the scene before doling out "shillings" for the children to use to buy food and other items inside WilliamsBubb.

"You are going back in time more than 200 years," Poling begins, addressing a group. "Back then, there was no United States."

Poling quickly moves through an explanation of what the colonies were and the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party, which pushed the colonists to declare independence from England.

"I am not paying taxes for my cup of tea," he proclaims, and the children, having been instructed on a popular exclamation of the day, respond in unison:


A smile stretches across Poling's face as he talks about WilliamsBubb. Recently, as part of a teaching workshop, he travelled to Williamsburg to participate in the reenactments that are run in the historic town year round.

"I have a particular warm spot for social studies," Poling says.

In Williamsburg, he and his fellow educators worked hard. Things were a lot different back then, he says with a knowing expression, as he recalls learning about 18th century physicians. "They didn't even wash their hands."

Though at first glance the clothing might seem silly and some of the customs downright ridiculous, Poling says that historical reenactments have a way of contextualizing the past in a way that no textbook ever could.

"It really helps you understand why people did what they did in their particular time and place," he says. "We're hoping the kids get that out of this."

It seems like most everyone in WilliamsBubb is getting something out of the experience.

Maxwell Kofman, who mans a WilliamsBubb cabinetmaker's shop, says that he has "been waiting for three years" for his chance to take part in the reenactment. He says the event has made learning about American history fun.

Fellow fifth-grader and cabinetmaker, Zakriya Bashir-Hill agrees. "We get to actually experience life in 1775," Bashir-Hill says, which helps him understand his social studies lessons better.

"Students look forward to this as a fifth-grade experience," Poling says. "They won't remember all their states and capitals, but they'll remember WilliamsBubb."


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