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8th graders visit Olustee Battlefied State Park for ‘living history’ lesson

8th graders tour the Town of Olustee.For the first time in more than a decade Baker County Middle School students took a field trip to visit historical re-enactors and demonstrators at the Olustee Battlefield the morning of February 17.

History teacher Gayle Combs said that because the annual Olustee Battle reenactment falls so close to the start of FCAT testing, her students had not been able to attend since 2001.

“This is the time of year when we’re intense about pushing for FCAT  ...  so they don’t like us taking field trips at this time,” she said, adding that the writing test taken by fourth, eighth and tenth graders begins February 28.

But after meeting with middle school principal Sherry Barrett and convincing her the trip was worthwhile, students were once again able to see up close a re-creation of what life might have been like during the Civil War.

See video from the BCMS field trip here. A slideshow of photos from the field trip and the annual Olustee Battle re-enactment festivities is available here. Prints of the photos may be ordered from the Gallery tab on the homepage by clicking the "Click here to see and order photos from the newspaper" button.

“My belief is for them to love history they have to have a connection to it,” said Ms. Combs. “And with this going on in our community, it’s a great way to bring history alive.”

Eighth grader Nikki Connell said she’s always loved the Civil War. “It’s pretty awesome how so many people fought and died for us in the war,” she said after touring the Union camp area at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park.

About two-thirds of middle school’s eighth graders, some 230 students in all, traveled to the park about 9 am before witnessing a booming artillery demonstration just past the park entrance with other students from The Bolles School in Jacksonville.

BCMS students soon broke into smaller groups with chaperones, including Ms. Combs and middle school math teacher Cathy Williams, to start scavenger hunts for historical information to be gleaned from the park’s re-enactors, exhibitors and landmarks, which were shown on a map made specially for Olustee Battle Education Day held the Friday before the battle reenactment.

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