Students celebrate local history with Thinkport
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 11:49

War of 1812 remembered at Charlesmont

by Nicole Rodman

    Under a clear blue sky last Friday morning, students, school staff and local dignitaries gathered to kick-off the Thinkport program at Charlesmont Elementary School.
    Organized in conjunction with Maryland Public Television (MPT), Johns Hopkins University Center and the Baltimore County Office of Tourism, the program is designed to teach students about the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
    The program consists of an educational website, Thinkport.org, as well as a number of classroom resources for teachers.
    During last Friday’s event, held on the lawn outside of the school, a number of notable figures were on hand to discuss the importance of teaching students about the  War of 1812 and how it relates to our community.
    Just before 10 a.m., Charlesmont students, forming one straight line, streamed from the school onto the front lawn.
   

As the students gathered on the grass, two young men dressed in historical militia outfits played a march on a drum and flute.
    Also on hand were local Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) members to present the American flag and Charlesmont’s resident Boy Scout troop to raise it.
    As the students stood waiting, National Park Service ranger Vince Vaise  began the presentation by informing students that the Battle of North Point took place on the ground where they were standing, exactly 198 years ago, on Sept. 14, 1814.
    It was on that date, and on that spot, that the battle finally concluded, the Americans having held their ground, delaying the British advance on Baltimore and allowing the city to bolster its defenses.
    As that battle, and the simultaneous British naval move on Baltimore harbor, ended and the dawn broke, the site of the still-present American flag flying over Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the poem that would eventually become the National Anthem.
    Leading the group in a celebratory “huzzah,” Ranger Vaise recounted Key’s writing of the Anthem, telling those present that “Maryland is the star-spangled state.”
    As he spoke to the children, Vaise pointed out the fact that, at 18 years old, most of the soldiers fighting in the Battle of North Point would have been closer in age to the elementary school students than to him.
    Concluding his welcoming remarks, Vaise then introduced Charlesmont principal Marsha Ayres, who spoke of the school’s pride in being a part of local, and national, history.
    Pointing to the many schools surrounding her own, Ayres noted that schools such as Battle Monument School, Battle Grove Elementary and General John Stricker Middle School all trace their names to the Battle of North Point.
    [Stricker commanded the Baltimore brigade of the Maryland Militia in the Battle of North Point.]
    As Ayres pointed out, soliders camped right on the grounds of what is now Charlesmont Elementary during the two-day battle.
    Following Ayres’ remarks, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin briefly offered his own thoughts on the significance of 1812 history to the Dundalk area.
    “Today we’re celebrating the use of technology so young people will better understand the War of 1812,” Cardin explained to those assembled.
    As he further noted in a press release distributed at the event, “Thinkport is an exciting project because it demonstrates how students will learn in the future using interactive techniques that will help them understand and experience what the War of 1812 was really like and why it was so important to our nation.”
    He added, “This new learning tool is funded by the Department of Education as a way to help history come alive for our students.”
    In preparing to introduce the next speaker, state Del. John Olszewski Jr., Cardin noted the Dundalk area’s unique interest in American history and their role in the War of 1812.
    “No other community in the country does it like Dundalk,” Cardin explained, adding, “You understand patriotism.”
    In brief remarks following Cardin’s, Olszewski described his own experience as an American history teacher before he went into politics.
    “I am so honored to represent a community that is so proud of our legacy,” Olszewski stated to the assembled crowd of students, school staff and media.
    Explaining that the Thinkport website and classroom resources “integrate the best practices of technology and learning,” Olszewski noted that he was “pleased to be here to support it.”
    As Olszewski concluded his remarks, Vaise took to the podium to recount for the students the events of Sept. 14, 1814, when — after a night of heavy battle and bombing of Fort McHenry — dawn broke over a still-waving American flag.
    Overcome by emotion at the site of the colors waving high in the bright blue sky, Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
    To commemorate that historic event, Vaise led students as they lined up and began unrolling a giant flag the exact dimensions of the one over Fort McHenry.
    As students stood gripping the large American flag, staring out over a wide expanse of red, white and blue, they recited the Pledge of Allegiance before singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
    As a smaller flag was hoisted up the flagpole by a small group of Boy Scouts, the ROTC color guard led the students into the school building, where they were addressed by MPT president Larry Unger.
    In a press release issued last week, Unger noted “We are delighted to be part of this important education collaborative and bring Maryland’s proud history to classrooms across the state.”
    As the day’s events concluded, a number of the school’s fifth-grade students took to their computers to demonstrate one of the Thinkport resources, an 1812 game called “Hold the Fort.”
    The game allows students to relive the Battle of North Point and bombardment of Fort McHenry.
    “It’s important that we commemorate Maryland’s contributions to the defense of a nation during the War of 1812,” Bill Pencek, executive director of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, noted last week, adding, “The interactive nature of the game makes this period in history relevant for today’s youth.”
    While Thinkport was introduced today, it will continue to be integrated into classrooms at the school, and other local schools, throughout the year.
    For more information on Thinkport, visit warof1812.thinkport.org.
    For more on events marking the War of 1812 bicentennial, visit www.starspangled200.org.