COLUMBIA — For a moment, Rolf Crockett was his great-grandfather, Confederate Pvt. Alfred Bybee, as he unpacked his haversack in front of an eighth-grade audience at Jefferson Junior High School on Wednesday.
Crockett pulled out props from his haversack — a black bag he could sling over his shoulders— saying he had salt, sugar, coffee beans, rice, pipe tobacco, a sweet potato, a turnip, utensils and a handkerchief from his wife.
"It reminds me of my wife, and it's something from home," Crockett said of the handkerchief, speaking in first person from his great-grandfather's point of view. "I'd wrap my glasses in them."
Then he brought out his double-barrel shotgun and 10-pound, .58-caliber musket and passed around a cartridge and a bullet to the students, explaining how the weapons worked.
When Crockett had finished sharing his items, student C.J. Stock asked, "How many times have you been wounded?"
"Me?" Crockett said, seeming to momentarily forget the character he was playing. "My great-grandfather was wounded twice."
Crockett came to Jefferson Junior as part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a national group of descendants of Confederate soldiers. Uniformed re-enactors from the group's Col. James J. Searcy camp in Columbia gave presentations in the library during class periods for eighth-grade social studies students. The enrichment activity came about a month after the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.
"They bring it to life," social studies teacher Shawnna Matteson said. "When you can see it, you can hear the living history, which makes it real for kids."
Loren Reynolds from the Sons of Confederate Veterans said the goal of the organization is to present the Southern side of Civil War history but that the group does not in any way support slavery. He said the group wants to point out that the Union committed atrocities, too.
"They tell the good about the Union, but they don't tell the bad," Reynolds said.
The activity was part of CERT Day, or Cyclones Enrich and Reteach, an eighth-grade social studies program started in October to increase student achievement at Jefferson Junior. On the monthly CERT Day, students who passed an assessment participate in an enrichment activity when they would normally have class, whereas students who did not pass are retaught the material. This month, the topic was the causes of the Civil War.
Social studies teacher Tracy Worthington, who sought out the group, said she overheard students talking about re-enactors' guns and uniforms in the hallways. "That's always a great sign," Worthington said. The guns seemed to draw attention at one presentation, too, inspiring a couple of questions from students.
Worthington said she was looking for an enrichment activity for her students about a month ago when she heard about the Sons of Confederate Veterans and attended one of their monthly meetings at the Boone County Historical Society Museum.
"They were very excited," Worthington said. "It was the first time they had been approached by a school to do this activity. It's just something that enriches our students and gives them a chance to learn just a little extra about the Civil War."
Worthington said the opportunity to participate in the CERT Day enrichment activity has motivated students to study harder for the common assessment. She said when CERT Day started in October, 30 percent of students did not pass the assessment the first time, compared to 9 percent this time.