Maryland comes alive for students


Clemens Crossing Elementary School students spun wool and churned butter to celebrate Maryland Day.

More than 100 students circulated in 20-minute periods yesterday to listen to speakers, including Pride of Baltimore II Capt. Robert Glover, who gave a slide presentation on the

two-masted topsail schooner that sails the world on goodwill tours.

Ilchester resident and woodcarver Richard Gick brought sculptures of swans, mallards and ducks, and gave a demonstration on how to turn a block of wood into a decoy.

The school's second annual Maryland Day taught fourth-graders much of Maryland life, from its Colonial period to its sports to its seafood industry. In step with the day's theme, many students wore Maryland's colors -- black, gold, red and white.

Yesterday marked the day Maryland's first colonists landed on St. Clement's Island in St. Mary's County 359 years ago.

A Fort McHenry ranger told tales of how Francis Scott Key penned "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"During the bombardment, Francis Scott Key could not see the flags," Ranger Jeffrey Cook said. "Fort McHenry was firing at the British, and the British were firing at Fort McHenry, and back and forth. The bombing lasted 25 hours. It was raining, and it was dark, all day and night. It could have been the biggest flag in the world, but he couldn't see it."

The flag was 42 feet long by 30 feet tall. Each of its 15 stripes was 2 feet wide. It wasn't until the bombing ended that the author of "The Star-Spangled Banner" caught a glimpse of the American flag in the dawn's early light.

While Mr. Cook couldn't bring in the real flag, he brought in a replica of one of the original stripes. Students stood in two lines and unrolled it, marveling at its size.

"They fly this in the air and birds are going to fly into it," one student exclaimed.

"When Francis Scott Key wrote a song, it became a very important piece of music here and also in the world," Mr. Cook said. "The words were written by a Marylander about an hour away. You, too, can have an effect on the world, like Francis Scott Key."

Teachers said the event is a hands-on and interactive way to teach children history.

"I tried to bring it alive to the children, rather than reading it to them out of a book," said Gloria Konick, a media assistant who helped coordinate the event. "I hope they learn to appreciate what this state has to offer. I want them to appreciate this as much as I do."

For some students, it was the first they had heard that seafood was an important industry in the state and jousting was the state sport.

"When I first talked about jousting as a sport, they didn't even know it existed," said teacher Jan Vermette.

Doris Ligon of the Maryland Museum of African Art showed a video presentation and displayed African artwork. She spoke about misconceptions many Americans hold about Africa, the second-largest continent.

Somalia has starving people, she said, but "that is only one place in Africa. Starvation isn't taking place all over Africa. The rest of the continent isn't like that. Africa is diverse. Africa is huge."

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