Morgantown students learn about trails, trolleys and more

Published 12:05 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Morgantown Elementary teacher Toni Martin reads the Natchez Trails maps with her students who took a field trip to the trails and other Natchez landmarks.

NATCHEZ — A crowd of Morgantown Elementary School students weaved through the Natchez Trails Friday morning before hoping the trolley for a historic tour.

“What’s a trolley?” student Dequieae Anderson asked.

The ride would be Anderson’s first time on a trolley, and the field trip was the first time she had walked the Natchez Trails.

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The field trip was one of many “fantastic Fridays,” when students attending a free grant-sponsored summer program take field trips, program teacher Janice Davis said.

Davis and other teachers stopped at different markers, and taught the students about their hometown.

“I didn’t know Natchez wasn’t always on the hill,” student Marcos Medrano said.

Medrano enjoyed seeing photographs of the old Natchez, when more businesses were located Under-the-Hill.

“It was awesome,” he said.

Teacher Jennifer Haile said a few of the students had walked the trails before the field trip, but not many.

McLaurin Elementary School students attending a similar summer program also took the same field trip Friday, which ended with a tour of the Natchez Visitor Reception Center to watch the “Natchez Story” film.

Davis said exposing children to places and ideas they might not normally get the chance to experience helps them develop academically and as people.

Community volunteers teach activities such as crocheting, chess and arts and crafts during the summer program, in addition to reading and math instruction taught by NASD teachers.

Anderson said she enjoyed basketball and crochet the most of the enrichment activities.

The students also benefit from character development sessions as part of the program, such as education on bullying, manners and speech.

“They teach us how to be respectful of each other,” student Kaelin Beamer said.

Parent liaison Luvenia Gaylor said when community members — especially those unaffiliated with the school district — reach out to teach the students a new skill, it lifts students’ self-confidence to know the community cares about them.

For instance, Alcorn State University professor Julia Mortyakova taught the students how to crochet, and the Natchez High baseball coach Charlie Williams taught them how to play chess, Gaylor said.

Last week, representatives from Natchez Regional Medical Center taught students about health and fitness.

“The main focus is to reach out to the community,” Gaylor said.

The program lasts from 8 a.m. to noon until July 13, and a 21st Century after school program will begin during the school year, Haile said.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center is a state-funded program under No Child Left Behind, and is part of a $473,000, five-year grant awarded to Morgantown last year.

Because funds for the program decrease each year, Davis said NASD will have a greater need for volunteers next year.