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McAlpine Elementary students re-create Revolutionary War battle

Water-balloon fight brings Brits’ March 1781 victory at Guilford Courthouse to life

McAlpine Elementary School students tried fighting a key Revolutionary War battle over again at midday Thursday, and it came out with the same results as 231 years ago. The British won.

This time, though, the “British” and the “Continental Army” battled with water balloons instead of muskets and cannonballs. And while warriors from both sides were sent to the “hospital,” everyone recovered in time for a drink of lemonade afterward.

Students staged a re-creation of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, which was fought in March 1781 near present-day Greensboro and resulted in a British victory. However, the British absorbed a big loss of soldiers and eventually retreated to Yorktown, where the final major battle of the war took place.

“The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was a decisive battle in the war, and it fit into our curriculum for both grades,” said McAlpine Elementary’s Allie Rayson, who teaches literacy and social studies to fifth-graders.

Her students were the British in three different battles staged during the day on the athletic field behind the southeast Charlotte school. Teacher Justin Ashley’s fourth-graders made up the Continental forces.

North Carolina history is part of the fourth-grade curriculum, while U.S. history is part of the fifth-grade social studies curriculum.

As was the case in the real battle, some of the students represented militia, while others were regular soldiers. Each side had officers, and the Continental forces defended a tent at one end of a 50-yard field that was decorated as a courthouse. The goal was for one side to grab the other side’s flag and return to the base.

Getting hit by a water balloon meant elimination.

“I got hit in the leg,” said fourth-grader Anna Azevedo, who was “hospitalized” briefly before being allowed to return. “It’s hard to see the balloons coming.”

When the afternoon battle had ended, Ashley addressed his “troops,” telling them, “Because of how hard you fought, the British had to move. And a few months later, they surrendered.

“You lost the battle, but you won the war.”

Ashley said the idea of the exercise was to bring history alive.

“I’m trying to teach history, but I’m trying to teach more,” he said. “History can be boring sometimes, with a lot of facts and dates.

“But history is the story of people, of life experiences. This is something you can take away, to make your life better.”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107
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