Children Reenact Battle of the Wilderness

Fifth graders from Koenneke Elementary school wrapped up their study of the Civil War by reenacting the battle of the Wilderness. 

“We’ve gone over the Civil War for about two or three weeks,” said social studies teacher and event organizer Kenny Mulkey. “This was the culminating activity.”

The 10- and 11-year-olds teamed up in the woods, forming pockets of three or four — organizing miniature ambushes from the brush. A hit to the torso from a “bomb” — more commonly known as a flour-filled Kleenex knotted off with a rubber band — meant certain death. A white flour explosion to the leg or arm meant the student couldn’t use the limb for the remainder of the 30-minute battle.

“If you get hit in the leg, you can walk, but you can’t run anymore,” Mulkey said during prewar instructions. “You get hit in the right arm, you have to use the left arm. You get hit in both arms and legs, you’re out.”

Let me see if I understand this.  The "culminating activity" is to have these kids run around the forest throwing "flour-filled Kleenex" at one another.  Am I missing something here?  Is this really the best that Mr. Mulkey can come up with? 

To keep the battles historically accurate, the Confederate class was deployed to the woods first to “symbolize superiority,” Mulkey said.

“The South had a stronger, smarter military. The only time they lost was when they weren’t on their own soil,” he said, referring to Pickett’s Charge, when the South lost more than half of its troops on Pennsylvania soil.

Mulkey said Thursday’s scrimmage was one the classes had been looking forward to and something that helped re-enforce the lessons they read about in class.

“It’s a great activity,” Mulkey said. “It really makes history come alive.”

How about having the students read accounts of what the battle of the Wilderness was like while in the forest?  Perhaps they could find a dense section where the canopy isn’t too high.  Maybe Mr. Mulkey could do a little research and teach the students how to march in the forest.  This would give the students a better sense of how difficult it sometimes was to maintain order in the unit.  I may be going too far here for 5th graders, but perhaps he could even assign ranks and have students do research on their respective responsibilities within the unit. Instead we have kids running around getting dirty.  How wonderful is that?  I am sure that the blogger over at elementaryhistoryteacher has some great ideas and I would love to hear them.

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4 comments… add one
  • Kimberly Baker Apr 11, 2008 @ 14:29

    I am looking for an opportunity like this one for 375 8th graders. WE have been researching the Civil War for 3 weeks and am looking for ideas for an all day activity….we had reenactors last year–but they are tied up this year…..any help—we want to be outside and do something really cool!

  • elementaryhistoryteacher May 14, 2006 @ 0:01

    Didn’t catch your post until now. Oh my!!!!!!! I am sure that this was a fun activity for the kidlets and teacher, but it is my understanding that culminating activities should be structured in such a way to show understanding of the learning standard. I am assuming that the standard or objective involved covered much, much more than the Battle of the Wildnerness such as causes, effects, several battles, important people, etc. My Civil War standards are rather lengthy and have several elements attached to them. I am making this judgement based on your post only. I haven’t yet looked at the link(s) you provided but, I will. I spent most of the work day Thursday brainstorming with my team regarding culminating activities for social studies and science. I hope to post on this soon and will add a reference to this as well. Thanks for making a reference to me.:)

  • Dave Kelly May 12, 2006 @ 10:59

    Yeah Mulkey, use your imagination…get a two year old sow and let the kids do a little bayonet practice on it. Spill its entrails then set the woods on fire and listen to it screek out its last mortal moments.

    If that ain’t enough then we can use the fat kid with the glasses that nobody likes. (Oh sorry that was Lord of the Flies…)

    Anyway lets get the little buggers good and traumatized so they become socially responsible pacifists (‘cept the ones who enjoy it and become republicans or Ukrops butchers en such…)

  • Marc Ferguson May 12, 2006 @ 8:41

    The only time the South lost was when they weren’t on their own soil? Perhaps Mr. Mulkey should do a little more research himself.

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