Drayton Hall, beyond the classroom and back in time

03/30/2013  |  RIKKI DAVENPORT
experiential learning
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Experience history where it happened! At Drayton Hall, a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, students and teachers are immersed in the landscape of a circa 1738 plantation that has been preserved in nearly original condition. The house and surrounding landscape has stood through the rise and fall of plantation society, survived devastating natural disasters and wars, and remained intact in the face of modernization. Its outstanding original features are testimony to the work and skills of colonial craftsmen, both free and enslaved. With approximately 10,000 annual participants, Drayton Hall’s student education programs are among the most popular in the Charleston area.

This year, nearly 3,000 of our students were fourth graders from Charleston County schools. Each of these fourth grade students participated in pre- and post-program testing to measure their growth in content knowledge in topics such as colonial life and the American Revolution. We are pleased to report a nearly 20 percent increase in the post-program test scores over the pre-program test scores. We are very proud of our local fourth graders and all of our visiting students who understand the importance of history and serve as wonderful ambassadors for Drayton Hall.

Drayton Hall is proud to offer a variety of student house tours and education programs aligned with the South Carolina Academic Standards. Out-of-state visitors may request to have their specific state standards incorporated into their program. One of the highlights of any visit is a tour of the main house. Younger students will investigate architecture though shapes, colors, patterns, and textures, and will develop a basic understanding of plantation life and its economics, comparing and contrasting their lives with those who lived at Drayton Hall. Older students will explore the house and its history though several focused house tour options. Some examples of house tour options include architecture and preservation, African-American history, and the American Civil War. Groups may reserve a house tour only option or package a house tour with any of our interactive programs.

Nine unique programs with topics ranging from colonial building trades to the American Revolution, and the ecosystem of a salt marsh, gives teachers a variety of learning options for their students. During A Day in the Life of a Colonial Plantation, a teacher favorite, students will be immersed in a life on a Southern plantation. As students rotate between interactive stations they will observe and participate in practices illustrative of colonial plantation life such as cooking, blacksmithing, coopering, rice agriculture and period children’s games.

Teachers know their student will receive a quality education program with professional staff. All of Drayton Hall’s educators hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree, many hold advanced degrees, and several are former classroom teachers. All enjoy working with children and telling the story of Drayton Hall. When asked what is the best aspect of his job, Drayton Hall educator Eric Snyder replied, “The programs being taught on the very ground where slaves toiled and shed their blood and where British and Colonial troops camped really gives students a deeper understanding of what we’re teaching. I can’t count how many times their faces light up saying, ‘Really, right here on the ground we’re walking on?’ And when children at such a young age are challenged by the concept of centuries and time, teaching on the property makes it easier for them to grasp that concept.”

Archaeologist Sarah Stroud Clarke explained how invigorating it is to see students having fun while they learn about history. “I really enjoy interacting with the students and answering their questions about my excavations. They are always so enthusiastic to see artifacts as they are recovered and to learn what those artifacts teach us about the people who lived at Drayton Hall.”

Two of the fall season participants had this to say:

“This place is really great! You can learn all about social studies here, “said Jackson, a fourth grader from JB Edwards in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

“I was one of the fourth grade teachers who had the privilege of joining our students on this trip — The American Revolution: War Comes to Drayton Hall,” said Laura Ann Shaw from Charleston Progressive Academy. “Thank you again for an outstanding learning experience outside of the classroom. The kids really enjoyed it. Thanks again for everything and the great comments you made about our kids.”

Student house tours and downtown Charleston walking tours are offered year around. Education programs are offered March, April, May, October, November, and December. Education programs and student house tours are available by reservation only. Both large and small groups, including entire grades, can be accommodated. Teachers are encouraged to book early as we sell out quickly.

Rikki Davenport is the Curator of Education at Drayton Hall. Visit www.draytonhall.org or call 843-769-2630 for more details and to make reservations.
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