Students to visit Fort Harrod for a living history lesson

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On Educating LaRue County

By Ron Benningfield

What better way to learn about Kentucky history than to visit places where history was made?

Fifth grade students from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School will observe some of that history first-hand Friday when they visit Fort Harrod and a Civil War Museum in Harrodsburg.

The story of Fort Harrod dates to 1774 when pioneer James Harrod led an expedition of 37 men down the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers to the mouth of the Kentucky River. After traveling up the river they guided their boats into a creek called Landing Run. They then traveled overland until they crossed the Salt River in present day Mercer County to a large spring where, on June 16, 1774, they established a camp that became the settlement called Harrodstown, later changed to Harrodsburg, the first pioneer settlement in Kentucky.

“We hope for the students to see and experience life as the frontier people did as westward expansion began,” said Jackie Harley, ALES fifth-grade teacher. The students will learn about the struggles of life, living and fighting with Native Americans, and they will see what school was like for the children of the time.

A Civil War museum is also on the Harrods­burg site which complements another subject included in the fifth-grade curriculum.

“The museum offers an opportunity for the students to see firearms from the period, some artifacts and clothing from then, also,” said Harley. “It helps the students to see Ken­tucky’s special place during this horrific time.”

 A room in the museum honors the president of the United States at that time, Abraham Lincoln, and the president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. Both were Kentuckians.

Visiting the sites will only be the beginning of the students’ assignment, however, as, upon their return to school, they will apply what they’ve learned by developing their own “Fort Harrod.”

Included in their fort will be displays about foods, medicines and basic survival skills. Harley and the other fifth-grade teachers – Karlotta Cecil, Rebecca Gaddie and Todd Rogers – will guide the students as they develop their projects.

They’ll also have a room in which they’ll demonstrate a Blab School, which derived its name from frontier schools where all the students said their lessons out loud all at once, making for a very noisy classroom. Lincoln attended such blab schools.

“We’ll also have a room that shares some of the cultural aspects from that period of time, such as the music and games,” said Harley. “Once we set up our fort, we will have the different grade level classes walk through it.”