Bringing history to life

Six classes of fourth- and fifth-graders at McAlpine Elementary used balloons to wage three versions of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse Oct. 24. The mock battles have been held at the school for more than six years and have become a rite of passage that many students eagerly anticipate.

"My son is so excited about finally being in this," said parent Nancy Sandifer. "He was even excited last year. The kids look forward to it and it keeps them interested in learning."

The fourth-graders took the field for the American side, while the fifth-graders, who had the experience of last year's battle, represented the British. The students played assigned roles – such as generals, lieutenants and nurses – and fought with balloons filled with colored water. A seminar was held after each battle, where students could reflect on what they learned on the field.

Allie Rayson, who teaches fifth-grade literacy and social studies, said the battle is an integrated project that requires social studies, research and reading. She said the students have been learning about the Revolutionary War for more than a month, and the balloon battle is a great way to bring history to life.

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought on March 15, 1781, in North Carolina and was a turning point in the war. The Americans lost the battle, but the British were severely weakened by high casualties and surrendered seven months later. But history doesn't always repeat itself when students take the field.

"We give the fifth-graders 50 more balloons, so there are more advantages for the British side to replicate history," Rayson said, "but out here, you just never know."