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Published: Tuesday, 1/20/2009

Obama's inauguration brings local social studies classes to life


Fifth grader Emma Hayward stood motionless, intently focused on the television in the corner of the classroom.

Her eyes never strayed away as she witnessed the first African-American to be sworn-in as president of the United States.

It was as though Emma understood the history unfolding before her.

"If I was alone, I'd be balling," the 10-year-old Fort Meigs Elementary student said of the significance of Barack Obama taking the oath of office yesterday.

"I think I understand the ideas and how he's going to help our country," she said.

While her fellow classmates jumped up and down and clapped their hands, Emma, still focused on the television, took a deep breath, and then quietly returned to her seat.

Kelley Treece, a fifth-grade teacher at Fort Meigs, said shortly before the inauguration ceremonies began, an emotional Emma approached her.

The class had recently learned about slavery and Emma told Mrs. Treece that the election of a black man shows how far the country has come.

"She gets it," Mrs. Treece said. "It's what you hope. It's such a great thing to see that."

Although it's not typically a part of the social studies class, Mrs. Treece said the fifth graders are learning about presidential inaugurations in class this week.

She said it's important for them to understand the significant of yesterday's events.

"I want the kids to look back and say 'I remember that day.' " Mrs. Treece said. "They might not truly understand the impact and what it means to people, but certainly their parents do and their grandparents do. Some day they might."

The students read several inauguration speeches, learned vocabulary words, and yesterday were drawing sketches of past presidents and searching for interesting facts about them.

Vanessa Ysassi, 10, chose to draw Mr. Obama, who she likes because of his positive attitude.

"He said 'Yes we can. We can do it,' " Vanessa said.

Across the desk from her was Michael Covyaw, 11, who was sketching a photo of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States.

Michael said he played basketball with Mr. Obama in Illinois prior to the election and shook his hand. He said he and his father met Mr. Obama at a gym by chance. He called the experience "real cool."

"He's a good person. I think he's truthful," Michael said of the new president.

Cassidy Ferguson said the election is not only historic, but proves to her that "nothing is impossible."

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