Last Wednesday found my class cruising along highway 21 East toward the Texas state border. Mr. Bryant drove the vehicle with girls and I, of course, had the great privilege to cart the boys down this beautiful slightly winding road that would lead us straight into our neighboring state of Louisiana. We have been studying about the cotton gin as well as the history behind all those that worked and ran plantations back in the 1800’s; when I found out that there were several plantations within driving distance, I had reservations nailed down and permission slips ready to send home. In my searching, I found that Natchitoches has another great education experience as well…a fort complete with cannons and docents!
We arrived at Fort St. Jean Baptiste for our 9:30 tour and were greeted by two individuals dressed for the time period. Our wonderful docents guided us through the tour explaining what life was like in the fort and outside the fort’s walls. 6th grade had run of the place and our docents were happy to hear and answer all our questions. We finished the tour with my students preparing and planting the fort’s fall garden just outside the protection of the walls. Goodbyes were said and with our “thank you’s” still ringing in the air, we prepared for a quick drive to enjoy dinner by The River.
My students were honored to have a flock of ducks and a gaggle of geese noisily join our lunch party. As I sat and enjoyed my meal, I thought of the stories some of the old trees could tell. This river could get you to New Orleans at one time in the past so one knows that a variety of characters must have floated that river. Not far from this lunch area a plaque could be found commemorating the reading of the Indian Removal Act right there on the main drag in Natchitoches. I wondered if a Native American might have leaned up close to one of the old trees that now gave us shade.
Well, with lunch finished our next stop was the Melrose Plantation some 20 miles away. We arrived at the darling plantation with its huge trees covered in resurrection fern and quickly were joined with our docent there. He showed us the ins and outs of Melrose and we all loved going into the African House. This is a one-of-a-kind architecture lollipop! It was crafted after homes made in the Congo. We all had a picture made in front of it. Melrose can boast of many things but all my children were most impressed with the American Folk Art painted by Miss Clementine. One room had a mural that she had painted which covered the walls. Although this primitive art has never been a favored period for me, the enthusiasm of my students was quite contagious! Before long, I was just as involved as they were in studying the baptism scene or laughing about the big bell ringer or trying to find where Miss Clementine had included herself in the picture. We were sorry to end our day in another state during the school week, but we were sure glad that we had made the effort to experience something quite educational but quite delightful at the same time!
(Please see yesterday’s post for pictures from this field trip.)