School is synonymous with big, thick history books. Assuming all of us paid attention in school during our formative years, we're all quite familiar with the American Civil War.
For four years in the mid-1800s, the war raged -- North vs. South -- in a battle to determine the fundamental direction of the United States; whether it would be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible country under one, national government.
Reading history is one thing. Seeing it acted out and relived brings even greater impact. It will all come to life this weekend at historical Blackberry Farm, where a new event -- Civil War Days -- stages a full-scale re-enactment of this central event in American history.
Fittingly, it comes on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the largest military conflict of the 19th century.
Visitors will be transported back in time through live demonstrations, including simulated battles between Union and Confederate soldiers that will feature authentic and reproduction weapons -- all the way to packing the gunpowder in the barrel and firing the guns (no bullets, though).
Civil War Days will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 16-17, at Blackberry Farm, 100 Barnes Road, Aurora.
Guest speakers and interpreters will stage numerous re-enactments of 1800s-era war life. For example, the event will feature cooking demonstrations that showcase the main ingredients of a soldier's diet back then. As well, a Civil War nurse will re-enact how she worked for a cause. And on Saturday, a special "Meet the Lincolns" will feature a conversation with President and Mrs. Lincoln.
"These stories go beyond the battles; they're about real people caught up in an unimaginable war -- soldiers, civilians, enslaved people -- all with a story to tell," said facility manager Sandie Gilmer.
Games and toys of the Civil War era will highlight each day from start to finish. All of Blackberry's regular amenities will be available -- train, pony, carousel and hay wagon rides -- along with the Adventure Playground.
What's more, the entire Civil War Days recreation is included with daily admission (ranging from $4.50 to $8). Visit foxvalleyparkdistrict.org for a schedule of events.
"This event is an opportunity to learn about democracy, sacrifice, heroism and hope -- the many ways this war shaped our history," said Gilmer.
Learning through playing:Speaking of education, the Fox Valley Park District's Creative Play Preschool is enrolling for the 2014-15 school year at Eola and Prisco. Classes for the little ones get under way Sept. 2.
Preschoolers always seem to be having so much fun -- and that's the idea behind the learning philosophy. At that age (3 to 5), play is actually good for the brain because it teaches children how to interact with others, form ideas and make decisions.
Play nourishes a child's development by forming a foundation of intellectual, social, physical and emotional skills. This helps set the stage for a lifetime of learning.
Now, that's not to say the kids are simply out to recess all day. The curriculum includes activities that emphasize math, science, language, music and dramatic play -- following guidelines of the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards.
So let's go to school -- to play! The young ones won't realize they're being educated. Plus, all that running, jumping and twirling is good for them physically. They'll be tired when they come home. But it's a good tired.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.