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Living History Day immerses students in local past

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OGDENSBURG — The fourth annual Living History Day held Friday at Lighthouse Point in Ogdensburg taught children that history isn’t just about big events that happened elsewhere.

Roughly 330 fourth-graders and seventh-graders from Ogdensburg and Heuvelton attended this year’s event, where they learned about the colonial history of Ogdensburg.

“People always think history happened somewhere else,” said Michael Whittaker, Bishops Mills, Ontario, president of the Canadian Friends of Fort La Presentation and an organizer of this year’s event.

The truth is there’s history all around us, Mr. Whittaker said, and Ogdensburg is a city with a centuries-old, exciting past.

Julie M. Madlin, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Heuvelton, said Living History Day began as a way to engage children in that past while educating them about it.

“Not many people know about the local history, which is kind of sad,” she said.

Mrs. Madlin said Living History Day is a perfect tie-in for students in fourth and seventh grades because they are already learning about the colonial era.

“We try to make it as hands-on as possible,” Mrs. Madlin said.

Fort La Presentation, formerly located on Lighthouse Point, was founded in 1749 as a mission to Roman Catholic Iroquois.

“The fort was used through the War of 1812,” Mrs. Madlin said, though Friday’s activities focused on the mid-1700s.

The day was split into 20-minute segments beginning at 10 a.m. and lasting until 2 p.m.

Students spent the day rotating among 19 stations where they learned about cooking in the 1700s, military techniques and tools, rope-making, calligraphy, the fur trade and “Rounders,” an early version of baseball.

Most of the presenters on Friday were re-enactors volunteering their time to help educate the students.

Grover B. Katzman, a DeKalb resident and retired forestry professor from Paul Smith’s College, Brighton, said he enjoys interacting with the kids and finds he slips easily back into teaching mode.

“This is all second nature,” he said.

Mr. Katzman, along with co-presenter Charlie F. Abel, Ogdensburg, was responsible for teaching about the cannons used during the colonial era.

The kids, Mr. Katzman said, were especially excited about the cannons since they promised to fire them off at the end of the day.

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