Students inaugurate history: At Elk Creek Elementary, inaugural fits right in with studies

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By Nicole Queen

On Tuesday, Jan. 20, instead of learning history at Elk Creek Elementary School, the kids were living it.

Many people remember where they were when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated or when the Twin Towers fell. On those days, the nation stood still.

On Tuesday, when the U.S. inaugurated its first African-American president, the nation once again stood still. And the kids in Deanne Spencer’s fifth-grade class quieted and set their pencils down — just in time for all eyes to be glued to the television screen.

The inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was one for the books — and for learning beyond the book — in Spencer’s class.

“I don’t recall ever having the opportunity to watch (an inauguration),” Spencer said.

Spencer, who’s been teaching for 16 years, said the school didn’t require teachers to tune in, but most of the teachers were planning to.

“We realize it’s a special day, and it’s historical,” she said. “To give the kids an idea of what’s happening … it also ties into the curriculum we’re learning.”

Spencer said her class had been studying the slave trade and the speeches of Obama and former President Abraham Lincoln.

“I think they’re going to remember this because we talk about it all the time,” she said. “They know about the injustices, and I think they realize the magnitude of this … from African-Americans not being seen as a whole person to having an African-American president.”

Spencer said a lot of her students followed the elections and are up to date on current events.

“I’m really excited about this,” student Blake Ballard said. “I think it means a big moment in history, because when the third president was moving into the White House, there were black slaves still working on the fireplaces.”

Other students said they liked John McCain better for president, and when the school hosted its own election day on Nov. 4, the fourth- and fifth-graders went for John McCain.

“I kind of preferred John McCain,” said Kasey Melsness, another student in Spencer’s class. “Because we were reading Scholastic News and it mentioned Barack Obama changing laws … and I kind of like the laws we have.”