This fall, Drayton Hall partnered with the Charleston County School District to offer Educational Excursions to local fourth graders! Through guided instruction and numerous interactive activities, students are better prepared to master fourth grade social studies curriculum standards.
Interpreter Patricia Jack shares her experiences with the program:
In 2004 I applied for a job at Drayton Hall to work as an educator as part of Charleston County School District’s Hands-On History. This program allowed every fourth grade student in Charleston County to take a field trip to Drayton Hall and learn about life on a colonial plantation or the Revolutionary War, on a site where enslaved Africans once toiled in fields and the British army was encamped during the Revolutionary War. The initiative was an outstanding success! I was fortunate enough to be part of this wonderful educational opportunity for local fourth grade students in 2005 and 2006. This October, Drayton Hall and the Charleston County School District once again offered this incredible experience to fourth graders. And, once again, I am able to participate in this educational opportunity. Since 2004, I have worked in various capacities here at Drayton Hall but nothing has ever fulfilled me as much as working with this partnership program. And yesterday was no exception.
The children arrived: ninety-six diverse and very excited students from a school in North Charleston. My job was to take these starry-eyed young scholars through the 11,000 square foot plantation house in rotating groups. Before we entered the house, I asked them what Drayton Hall is today – a historic site. I explained to them that my job is to help preserve this house so that future generations can visit and I asked them to help me by becoming preservationists too. And with their help we continued to preserve the house, I asked that they not touch the walls and walk gently through the house.
As I stood in the great hall of Drayton Hall with my first group, I was once again reminded why I love my job. Twenty youngsters stood in front of me wide-eyed with gaping mouths. They were filled with wonder. They giggled when I told them that the house was 272 years old (even older than me). They were awed by the ornate plaster ceilings and hand-carved wooden decorative features. They thought the Drayton family growth chart in the library, started in the 1880s, which includes some of the family dogs, was cool. The students were impressed when I told them they were standing in the same spaces where Lord Cornwallis once stood during the Revolutionary War. They used the best “marshmallow feet” of any student group I have taken through the house, in order to protect the 272 year old floors. Then we descended, ever so quietly, to the basement where they stepped inside the huge fireplace once used for cooking.
That is why I love my job. The students not only learn about life on a colonial plantation, but they begin to understand, even at their young age, why it is important to preserve historic sites such as Drayton Hall. When they leave, the students understand that preservation will allow their children and grandchildren to one day be as awestruck as they were.