Erwin students learn the tricks of colonial trades

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2012

GRANITE QUARRY – Eighth-graders at Erwin Middle School got a workout Friday as they used hammers and nails to punch holes in tin pans, creating a pattern that will later glisten throughout their classrooms as the sun shines through the window.
“It’s hard,” Skyler Adkins said as she stopped to take a tiny break.
The exercise was one of the activities during the school’s annual Colonial Day.
A woodwright, blacksmith and weaver were on hand to show students the tricks of the trade.
“We’ve been studying the colonial period, the types of lifestyles and jobs that they had and the way they lived during that period,” teacher Cindy Byrd said. “I wanted to make history come alive for them today.
“It’s one thing to sit in class and read about it, but to actually see it and experience it hands- on is completely different.”
All eighth-grade students circulated through the stations during social studies Friday.
Without technology
After giving a brief demonstration, weaver Kenneth Webb of New London and wood carver Stephen Martin of Rockwell allowed students to try their hand at each craft.
“It’s interesting to see how they used to make things because it’s so different from how we do it now,” student Paola Gomez said. “It’s probably easy for them, but it would be difficult for us because we’re so used to using so much technology.”
Teacher Cindy Waller said she wants students to understand that in colonial days everything was handmade and you couldn’t just run to a store to buy things.
“They need to see how much time and effort went into making a piece,” she said. “I hope they get an appreciation of the unique abilities it takes to create these crafts because they are a dying art, and they may go their entire lives and never meet someone who can do these things again.”
Students found Randy McCombs’ demonstration most interesting. As a bladesmith, a spin-off of blacksmithing, he fires up a coal forge to melt materials that he bends into knives and various utensils.
“It’s just been something to occupy my time,” he said. “But it’s rewarding to make a knife and give it to your grandson for Christmas because that’s something that he can pass on.”
Deer bones
Student John Owen thought it was neat that McCombs uses a variety of materials in his work.
“It was kind of interesting that he makes knives with deer bones, I’ve never thought about using that,” he said.
Student Conlyn Pattison said Friday’s demonstrations showed just how interesting history can be.
“Some kids might not understand what the teachers are trying to say in class and they might not think history’s cool, but when you get to see it firsthand it’s totally different,” he said.
Waller said it’s great to see students engaged in learning.
“I found that they really are fascinated by meeting people who can do these things and getting to watch them in action,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.•