With their media center converted into the deck of the Titanic, Greenbrier Middle School sixth-graders on Wednesday were transported back in time to April 14, 1912, the night the famous ship sank.
The pupils, participants in the school’s achievement program, offered this experience by holding the “Titanic Tea,” a reenactment that chronicles the last dinner on the ship before it struck an iceberg.
Working on the project since January, the 46 pupils in the program researched all things Titanic – including the ship’s roster, the last meal served by its staff, the wardrobe and even British and Irish accents – in order to reenact the ship’s sinking, said Dana Casey, media specialist at Greenbrier Middle.
The result was five performances, written and directed entirely by the pupils, that included acting, ballroom dancing and musical performances.
Sandy Wilson, mother of Olivia Wilson, one of the performance’s directors, said this hands-on project is just what these kids needed.
“It has taught them so much about the Titanic,” she said. “They’ll never forget this.”
As students entered the media center for the performances, they were given either first-class or third-class boarding passes with the names of actual people aboard the ship and were seated on the ship’s deck for the dinner.
At the tables, students continued to suspend their peers’ disbelief by printing menus of the last meal served aboard the ship and having actors, in character, sitting among the pupils to discuss major events from 1912, Casey said.
After the performance, the sixth-graders were able to take their boarding passes to the hallway outside the media center where lists of people aboard the ship and their fates were hanging on the wall. Checking the lists, students could see whether they survived the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
Wilson said the survival disparity between first-class and third-class passengers really stood out to her daughter.
“Olivia was so struck by how people were treated,” she said.
The inequality was clear. Of the 40 names listed on each side, 11 first-class passengers died in the sinking, but only seven third-class passengers survived.
Before the performances, Casey said the pupils were excited about the project and worked hard on it.
“They are so fired up about it,” she said. “I can’t get them out of the library.”
The class, taught by language arts teachers Shannon Brown and Sandy Kizer, meets every morning from 7:40-8:45, Casey said. There, pupils conducted research about the events surrounding the Titanic’s sinking as well as the characters they portrayed.
Casey said the class officials got the idea when they saw a similar reenactment at West Georgia University.
Along with learning research techniques and facts about the history of the Titanic, the pupils also were able to learn beneficial life skills such as goalsetting and leadership, Casey said.
“(Olivia) has learned more in the past couple of months how to diplomatically get her peers to do what she needs them to,” she said.
“It’s not easy to direct people, especially when they’re the same age.”