Arundel 8th-graders dig the '50s, '60s ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY EDUCATION


A couple of 'greasers' peered over their dark shades into the cherry red 1955 Ford coupe parked in the lot at Arundel Middle School.

They were cool -- the epitome of cool -- with their slicked-back hair and leather biker jackets. But these greasers slicked back their hair with styling gel, not Vitalis.

Eighth-grade students at Arundel Middle took a trip to the past Friday as they attended their first, and probably last, sock hop dance. The dance was the culmination of the students' lesson on the era stretching from the 1950s to the mid-1960s.

"We've been working as an interdisciplinary team," said Language Arts teacher Renee Ray. "In my class, the students are just finishing a unit titled 'The Coming of Age,' where they read S.E. Hinton's Rumblefish or The Outsiders."

Lachelle McHenry, 13, said she enjoyed reading The Outsiders, but found major differences between teen-agers of that era.

"I think kids back then were a little nicer," Lachelle said. "And they did have a really strict dress code."

This was the third year Arundel Middle School has organized a sock hop to give students a taste of a by-gone era. This year, seven cars, including a 1949 Ford coupe and a 1966 Mustang, were brought to the school by private collectors and members of a collector group called Lost in The 50s.

In science class, studied 45 rpm records, which were novelty items for the students, children of the CD generation. Social studies classes devoted time to studying the presidents, wars, and major events of the period,

"We're looking at the times and events that occurred in the lifetime of some of their parents," Social Studies teacher Eretta Morris said.

While students said they enjoyed learning the history, many said it was the music, dress, and dances that fascinated them. "The only thing I knew about the '50s was that they listened to weird music and that they dressed funny," said Stephen Chamberlain, dressed in a leather jacket.

Stephen, 13, said he has learned about much more than dances since the lesson began. However, he said, the music of the '50s was more fun to talk about than the Cold War.

The young man and his classmates got an extensive lesson about the culture of the time during their sock hop last Friday. The school cafeteria was decorated with the 45 rpm records the students made.

Songs like "Cool Jerk" and "Hand Jive" spun on a turntable as teachers attempted to show their students how to do the dances that went along with the songs. Greasers with candy cigarettes hanging from their lips learned to do The Stroll alongside The Socials, young women in skirts, bobby socks and ponytails.

When the event was all over, the eighth-graders said they still preferred the clothes, cars and music of the 1990s. Yet when their teachers said it was jitterbug time, the students couldn't resist one more trip to the hop.

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