Stepping back in time is something Kings River-Hardwick Elementary School has done for the past 32 years.
The eighth graders of Kings River-Hardwick became historical figures Friday to present to the school and community what they have learned in the past year about the person they selected as part of the school's annual History Day.
Margaret Tipton has worked at Kings River-Hardwick for 41 years. She said Sharon Koelewyn started the tradition in 1968.
Tipton said Koelewyn was so passionate about history that it was contagious for the kids. Tipton had two sons that have attended Kings River-Hardwick.
After doing research on a character, writing a paper and drafting a speech, the students dress up and present their speech to people who attend History Day at the school.
At the beginning of the year, the students are given a list to select of historical characters and they pick one. Bonnie Montgomery, a math and language arts teacher, said occasionally students pick someone that is not on the list, but with permission.
One of the new characters this year was Newton Knight played by Ayden Logan.
Logan said he picked Knight, who lived in Jones County, Miss., because of a movie he watched called “Free State of Jones” which is based on Knight's life. Knight was a southern farmer who fought the Confederacy from his farm, but was not a declared member of the Union.
Logan said that he liked that Knight fought for what he thought was right despite not formally joining a particular side.
Montgomery said that when she started teaching at Kings River-Hardwick, the eighth grade had around 30 students. This year Montgomery said there are around 79 students and next year there should be around 95 students.
This continued tradition of bringing history to life is shared with parents of students, community members, younger students and former Kings River-Hardwick students.
A former student, Dakota Vatcher, has returned for history day, and he also hopes to teach at Kings River-Hardwick someday soon.
“Going to school, there were teachers who inspired me to become a teacher,” Vatcher said.
In 2009, Vatcher was John Adams for History Day. He said that listening to this year’s John Adams' speech made him remember bits and pieces of his speech.
Vatcher is currently an instructional aide at the school while working on getting his teaching credential from Brandman University.
A big part of History Day is the effort that the students and parents put into the costumes and displays.
Many students are able to borrow costumes from former students, which save parents' time and money.
Alyssa Needham’s mother, Sierra Archuleta, said that if you take the time, it comes together. Archuleta said it took about a month to get together all the pieces for her daughter's Annie Oakley outfit.
Needham said her favorite part of History Day is the dance, the culminating act of the day. The “Virginia Reel” is a 17th-century folk dance that took the eighth-grade class around two weeks to learn.
History teacher, James Huff, explained that there are several small assignments throughout the year that are part of History Day. The students begin with research in September. Huff and Montgomery describe this as a project-based learning experience for the students.
“Some of the kids that don’t do as well academically shine during this project,” Montgomery said.