Third grade Musical Brings American History to Life

By Steve Parker, Sullivans Elementary School Public Affairs Coordinator

Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan – Students, Parents, teachers and siblings crowded into the upstairs cafeteria of The Sullivans School on board Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka, with barely contained excitement.

They were eager to see the culminating event of over one month of their children’s, or friend’s or big sister’s or brother’s hard work. They were not disappointed.  Everyone in the room watched the pint sized performers command the stage as more than 300 years of American history was brought to life before their eyes. The students hailed from three different third grade classes who had learned choreography, memorized lyrics, practiced melodies and rehearsed almost every day for over a month. Parents, who included United States Navy Sailors, Department of Defense Civilians, and their families sat with cameras ready and watched their children with smiles on their faces. Many simultaneously mouthed the words they had undoubtedly shared over dozens of dinners in the month leading up to the performance.

The Indians and the Pilgrims blame their troubles on each other in a gripping dramatic moment from the third grade performance of American History Time Travelers by Alexander Zwick. The Sullivans School is located on board Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka in Yokosuka, Japan. (Photo by Steve Parker, Public Affairs Coordinator, Sullivans Elementary School)

The Indians and the Pilgrims blame their troubles on each other in a gripping dramatic moment from the third grade performance of American History Time Travelers by Alexander Zwick. The Sullivans School is located on board Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka in Yokosuka, Japan. (Photo by Steve Parker, Public Affairs Coordinator, Sullivans Elementary School)

The classes involved were Brenda Montoya, Karen Croom and Latoya Surratt. The musical was  American History Time Travelers by Alexander Zwick. Surratt found the musical while looking for an American history project for their classes on Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original downloadable educational materials, hard goods and used educational resources.  The musical recounted U.S. history from before European settlement into the present day through comedy and modern pop music. The show focused on a history teacher and her disinterested students, as she guides them through time to bring the events of U.S. History to life. The topics covered included European exploration and colonization of America, Revolutionary War, Civil War, Cold War (and others), the role of Native Americans and African-Americans and the impact of American history on their lives, the structure of our Constitutional republic, the Civil Rights era, and more. The package Surratt found included a MP3 file with a male singer singing along as well as a karaoke version without voices. In addition to Social Studies and History standards, the play also addressed Common Core standards, such as using evidence to support statements and inferences, and relating ideas to a theme. According to Montoya, who worked ceaselessly backstage during the performance making sure all her charges were quiet and ready for their entrances,  “The children practiced first for two weeks with the sing along version and then moved on to singing without the guiding voice, they all memorized their lines! I was really proud of the way they got over their stage fright!”

Alexis Bernardo, a student from Surratt’s class, said, ” I never did a musical like that before, but I liked it!”

Croom, who was hosting a cast party with cupcakes and juice in her room after the show for the exhilarated performers, stated, ” I guess I was the stage manager of the show, I did a little drama in High School and enjoyed that so it was fun!”

Nicole Cornejo, a student from Croom’s class, confessed, “My favorite part was when the people laughed because it makes me feel good to make people laugh!”

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