She was a midwife-turned-war-spy living in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. She single-handedly helped change the outcome of the Revolutionary War by notifying American troops of the British army’s imminent plans for attack.
And on the night of June 2, Lydia Darragh was in the Bigfork Elementary and Middle School gym to share her story with a crowd of parents and community members during the annual fifth grade Night of the Notables event.
The project requires each student to research an important figure in United States history and then write a first-person report from that person’s point of view. Students must also put together a poster and a costume for their character.
On the night of the event, about 50 students were spread throughout the gym as attendees moved from desk to desk to hear different reports.
“I think it’s really important that kids who are learning about history have the opportunity to show what they know in another way besides a test,” said Julie Bonner, who teaches fifth-grade social studies and helped organize the event. “Otherwise, history can become just a bunch of facts, and it’s not really real to them.”
Darragh was played by Riley Hoveland, who said the Notables project gave her the opportunity to learn about one of the lesser-known figures of the American Revolution.
“I love history, and I thought it was cool to study someone I’d never heard of before,” Hoveland said. “This was the best project I’ve ever done.”
Students choose their characters from a list of names compiled by Bonner. Each student marks their top three choices, and Bonner sifts through them all and assigns one historical figure to each person.
Students did the bulk of their research during class time, but some kids also worked on their reports at home.
Hoveland said there wasn’t much information to be found on Darragh, but she was able to track down a magazine article and a few online history sources to help her with her report.
“I got a little stressed out at some points,” she said.
Dressed in a bright red coat and a black hat, Austin Varner took on the role of Gen. Edward Braddock, a British major general who helped the American military fight against French forces during the French and Indian War.
During his presentation, Varner noted an interesting fact about his costume: Members of the British military wore red coats to camouflage their gunshot wounds.
History was never one of Varner’s favorite subjects, but he said this project has caused him to change his mind.
“This is one of the things that got me really open to history,” he said. “It was really fun to go back in history and act like I was General Braddock.”
According to Bonner, students in lower grades look forward to participating in the project once they enter fifth grade.
“Some of them have older siblings who have done it before, and we also do a dress rehearsal for the younger kids, so they know about it,” she said.
Bonner is always impressed by how much her students get into their characters, from the costumes they design to the accents they speak in.
“It’s fun to see all the different little twists and details they come up with,” she said.