A field trip that will take all LCPS fourth graders to the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center this week could more aptly be called time travel.
For the more than 700 students, the educational tours that began Wednesday morning and will continue Thursday and Friday bring them face-to-face with the North Carolina history they’re studying in their classroom, transforming lessons about the Civil War era into something as real as a toothbrush made of pig bristles or a hand-cranked machine that turns out rope.
“It’s North Carolina history and it is really important North Carolina history,” Matthew Young, director of the CSS Neuse State Historic Site, said. “The 4 1/2 or five years of the war really changed the state. What we have here you can’t see anywhere else in the world, much less in North Carolina. It’s a great educational opportunity for students.”
The center is built – almost literally – around the remains of the CSS Neuse, a 158-foot-long Confederate ironclad built in Seven Springs, berthed in Kinston during the Civil War and scuttled by its crew as Union forces advanced on the town in March 1865. Raised from the Neuse River at Kinston in 1963, the CSS Neuse survives as the only remaining commissioned Confederate ironclad ram above the war.
But with the big ship in the background, the fourth graders focused on the little things about life in the mid-19th century in eastern North Carolina. As classes from Pink Hill, Banks and Northwest elementary schools toured the interpretive center Thursday, they stopped for 20-minute lessons about steam engines and trains, rope making, sailor life, dentistry, 19th century medicine, food preservation, textiles and soldier life.
Along with the center’s staff, historic interpreters from state historic sites at Bath, Brunswick Town, Fort Fisher and Bentonville helped conduct the mini-lessons.
Rachel Kennedy, programs coordinator for the center, spent about eight months coordinating the field trip with the district’s nine elementary schools and securing a sponsorship from Tands/Bojangles’ that eliminated any expense for both the schools and their students.
“I was really surprised at how well we were able to get everyone organized,” she said as more than 250 students moved around the center in groups. “I feel like logistically we’ve been very organized throughout the entire process.”
Preparation included Kennedy’s providing fourth-grade teachers with information tying their study of North Carolina history to what they would see on their field trip, including a video about the CSS Neuse.
Caren McCarter’s class from Banks Elementary came prepared. “We showed the video about the CSS Neuse and had discussion in class about the history of it,” the teacher said. “The history of the CSS Neuse for Kinston and fourth graders is very important. We study North Carolina and how their area is very significant in the history of the Civil War. I think it’s important for them to see and experience it. This way, all the fourth graders get that experience.”
A Facebook photo album of Wednesday’s field trip is here.