This teaching idea is provided by Jane Miller
The Ichabod Crane Central School District is a small school system
located in the Hudson Valley community of Kinderhook, New York. It is a
school district of approximately 2,000 students, and is comprised of
five schools, one of which is the Martin Van Buren Elementary School. The
elementary school is a
wonderful two story 'older' brick building which houses approximately 275
students and is
located in the tiny village
Each year, with
the assistance of the National Park Service at Lindenwald and the
Friends of Lindenwald, our school takes part in a 'birthday bash' for
Matty Van which begins with a gravesite ceremony honoring Martin Van
Buren and culminates in a wonderful birthday party of cake and cider at
the Martin Van Buren School. This event has become a welcome
tradition to our students, staff, and parents.
It began back in 1976 when our school, along with the entire country, was
celebrating the nation's bicentennial. Approximately 250 students, along
with their teachers and other staff, all dressed in 18th century garb
their first birthday celebration. An important part of the
ceremony is the presentation of a speech about Martin Van Buren, written
and delivered by one of our 4th grade students.
Those of us who have participated in this event each year recognize
it as an important one for our students. Not only is it a vehicle for
allowing students to gain understanding and knowledge of one of our
nation's most important leaders, Martin Van Buren, it also
reinforces the meaning and importance of the concepts of citizenship
students and staff from the school community, members of the local
community, as well as representatives from the state and national
governments mingle together at the gravesite. We are reinforcing the concept of community and honoring a
particular citizen who gave the majority of his public life to the
service of community. This is a lesson we must teach.
The Martin Van Buren Gravesite Ceremony is just one activity in
which our school has participated to learn about Martin Van Buren.
Other activities have included the National Park Service Junior Ranger
program. This program is one in which our fourth grade students have
taken part. It involves working closely with a national park ranger to
develop a research project about the president.
Teaching the students
is done jointly, by both the teacher/librarian and the park ranger. It
involves the teaching and use of both primary and secondary sources to
create some type of art project, such as a diorama depicting a scene
from the president's life, and/or written report. Successful
completion of the project results in membership to the junior ranger
program and a special junior ranger badge. A picnic at Lindenwald with
a presentation of the projects is the culminating activity.
One other project which students have taken part in is the
performance of a skit or play about Martin Van Buren's life. In 1991,
fourth grade students at Martin Van Buren School performed a musical
about the life and times of Martin Van Buren. "Martin Van Buren-the
Musical" was a three act play which was written by a park ranger from
Martin Van Buren National Historic Site. Not only did the students
perform, they also researched the characters they played. These fourth
graders, who are now high school seniors, still recall, with fond
memories, their participation.