Standing before a collection of their peers, the fifth grade students of Alyssa Allen’s class took the students of Oak Hall Episcopal School on an adventure back in time.
The fifth graders  presented the younger students a picture of American colonial life on Thursday for the Colonial Fair, an annual event that calls for the fifth grade students to research, create and portray a character from colonial times and then teach their fellow students about the time period.
“We present about how it was in the colonial times,” Avie Gay, Oak Hall Episcopal School fifth grader, said while standing in front of her glass making presentation, fully dressed as a colonial glass blower. “We’ve been working on it in social studies.”
The students began working on project in February and began shaping the characters they would portray.
“They chose an occupation from colonials times from a pool I gave them and then they were given some specific questions to research,” Allen said. “So they had to know how to make an item, how long it would take, things they ate and things like that.”
The occupations ranged from a printing press owner and weaver to a school master and an apothecary. After the students selected an occupation they were asked to write and present an oral report as that character. The students, while presenting, give the information while in character, even answering questions from the audience in character. The experience provides students an alternative way of learning from the traditional classroom setting.
“It appeals to a variety of learners,” Allen said noting it is a different style of learning. “They’ll remember this a lot longer than they will if we just read out of a book.”
Allen said the presentations, which are given to students from Pre-K to fourth grade through a rotation between classrooms, teach the students not only about the colonial times, but teach them about language arts, primary sources and the creation of a character. A lot of the data and information is also difficult to find, so Allen said the presentations not only challenge the students, but allow them some creativity in making their character.
“It’s easy to write about yourself but they spend time making a character,” she said, mentioning that the students are very specific in the details of their characters, even determining their marital status, philosophies and what their favorite thing for dinner is. In addition to the presentation, students are asked to create a visual back drop and a prop to aid them in their story telling.
The fifth grade students began asking about the Colonial Fair in August, excited to began constructing their colonial counterparts.
“It’s kind of become the fifth grade right of passage,” Allen said.
The experience, which many students reported being nervous about, not only provides historical information and data to the younger students receiving the presentations, but gives historical context to the fifth grade students, who transport themselves to a different time, place and paradigm for the fair.