We decided to have a Civil War-era party since we had studied that in American history, and we eventually settled on a Sherman’s March to the Sea theme as we had found the study of this especially interesting to discuss because of the “total or absolute war” concept, and its devastating affects on the south and the inhabitants of Georgia who were unlucky enough to be in its paths. (There were actually three different routes the army took.)
I always try to encourage my students to do something different, rather than just doing the same thing over and over again. One of them had the idea to make a newspaper story invitation, and another had the idea to just make one big one and hang it up on a bulletin board for the students to see. Both ideas were novel; we had never had a newspaper invitation, and we had never just hung one big invitation up for all of them to see. To make it, I printed a real front page from the December 22, 1864, New York Herald newspaper. Next I made an overhead out of it on the copy machine, then we projected it onto paper hung on the wall and copied it. They were told to arrive at the school at 5:30 on May 7th, and asked to bring their art projects to wear a watch.
Next, we had to make their art projects the day or two before. These were no-sew haversacks. To learn how to make these, click here.
The students arrived at “Oak Valley Plantation” (the front entrance to our school) with their haversacks ready to go. I read them some background on the March to the Sea, told them that Sherman’s army was on their way, that they had to find all the older students, and then get safely away before the army arrived. (We were fleeing evil.)
I read the first clue in the form of a poem, and as they found each student behind doors all over the school, fellowship hall and church, the discovered student would in turn read a poem clue to find the next student. Several of them also gave the students something to take with them in their haversacks, including band-aids, peppermint sticks, a photo of their parents (we got these before hand and printed them in sepia tone), fake coins, and fake dollars.
Behind the last door was Uncle Jed, the principal, who handed them train tickets. We ran to the parking lot behind the school just as our “train” (a bus driven by one of the brothers from our church) pulled up. As we boarded the train, we looked across the field and saw the “burning of Atlanta” (boxes piled really high lit on fire by two of the older students and another brother from church.) We screamed and jumped on the bus.We went on a nice little drive out in the country, until up ahead there was a road block. The train tracks had been torn up by Sherman’s army, and we had to pull over and turn around. When we did this, three deserters from the Confederate army jumped aboard the train. As they boarded, Uncle Jed told us all to be non-resistant and to give the men whatever they wanted. They wanted food, but we didn’t have any, so they demanded money and any other valuables we had. There went the watches! (One young man was especially distressed--his mother had bought him a watch just for this.)
Once back at the school we discovered the deserters hiding. We told them that we would share our food with them. They accepted our invitation and gave us back the money and watches they had stolen from us.
We entered a school room that had been blocked off during the scavenger hunt. We had moved all the furniture, covered it up, and made the room look as different as we could, and set up tables with dollar store silver platters and goblets I had gotten at a thrift store which we have used a few times before for the Medieval honor roll party and possibly something else. (I keep bins of all this stuff up in the attic and we reuse them whenever the theme fits.)
We had a lovely Southern meal of corn bread muffins, bacon, grilled corn-on-the-cob, beans, coleslaw, and lemonade, served by our paid servants, the older students. For dessert we had brownies and ice cream.
When the evening was over, we had the traditional game of kick-the-can, and the older students helped us clean up. We took a few pictures because we had worked really hard on these dresses! (The home economics class had found amazing dress patterns at a store-closing sale for about a dollar each, and while we had planned to make them in the summer after school was out, when we decided on theme for this party we got our sewing machines out . . . .)
And what do Southern Belles wear under their hoop skirts? Converse tennis shoes, of course!
It was a wonderfully historical, exciting, end to a fabulous year together.