Kids have always had a fascination with the military. Guns, tanks, uniforms, saluting, marching, crawling through the grass. Fun stuff to an 8-year-old.
Students at Joaquin Elementary School recently got a view of that lifestyle from the seat of a howitzer at Camp Williams. It was part of several military experiences they're tasting through a new course introduced by fifth-grade teacher Kevin Boughton.Boughton, a drill sergeant who conducts a three-day training course for the Utah Army National Guard, found that students loved to hear about his military experiences. So he decided to incorporate the experiences into a special course offered during the year-round school's three-week inter-session breaks.
"I saw the kids' attraction to me being a soldier," Boughton said. "They love guns and tanks and stuff like that."
The courses provide activities for students who otherwise sit at home during the break doing little. Students enrolling in the intersession period must take a reading and math course, but the other three courses are elective. Boughton's course is one of those electives.
"I couldn't pass up on an opportunity to teach things like this, and I've tried to incorporate a lot of academic things throughout the activities," he said.
The school's mascot is the Joaquin Warriors. Boughton's class is called the Army warrior class. Students in first through sixth
grades can take the one-hour course.
Students spend the first day of the course at Camp Williams touring the facility and learning about different weapons. Each student spends a short time operating a howitzer cannon. For lunch, they get what military people eat - a military mess kit.
Other topics and activities include drill ceremonies, marching, planning attacks, wearing chemical warfare gear, learning to camouflage and learning the importance of military service and memorials. At the end of the course, a graduation ceremony is held at which each student is awarded a dog tag and diploma.
Boughton said the topics might seem simple and basic, but the students find the course different and exciting. He said the activities teach the students personal pride, patriotism, discipline and comradeship.
"More than anything it makes them feel successful, and at a school with as many disadvantaged kids as this one, that is very important," he said.