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South Jordan Journal

South Jordan Elementary fifth-graders recount American Revolution tales, donning period costumes

May 02, 2022 08:28PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Patricia Gotberg began teaching fifth grade at South Jordan Elementary, she decided it would be fun to put on a play about the American Revolution. 

So, she began sewing period costumes. For her first one, she bought fabric, but then she got creative.

For the girls, much like in “The Sound of Music,” Gotberg used curtains as well as some fabric from outdated dresses to which she added ribbon and lace to create period costumes. For the boys’ roles, many will wear revolutionary war era replica trousers and a solid-colored coat and waistcoat, or they’ll have ivory cotton work shirts.

Then COVID-19 hit.

“I had 25 costumes done and nothing to do with them,” she said.

Fast forward a couple years, and the show is happening. On May 25, students in her class will enact a compilation of stories. The play will be performed in the round for the other fifth-grade classes and for their parents.

Because she has a few more students in her class this year, she has been busy sewing a few more costumes and adding parts to the play. She estimates that now, after using the same patterns over and over, she can create a costume in about four hours.

“I’ve got a serger; I got a sewing machine, so I’m able to do it all,” she said, including making many of the hats and other props. “I’m enjoying making these and I don’t want not having a costume to be a deterrent for any child.”

While the costumes haven’t been assigned yet, she said most will depend on the students’ heights or size.

“Generally speaking, Thomas Jefferson is going to wear something a little more fancy, and has a coat,” she said, adding that she also has Betsy Ross’s costume selected.

The play will introduce stories of not only those two, but also of King George, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton, the Second Continental Congress, the Militia Redcoats and the Constitutional Convention.

The students have been rehearsing their parts on their own and recently, for about 40 minutes every day in class.  Many of the students have six to eight lines to learn.

“We go through half the play one day and half the next; we just push our desks to the side and practice in the round so we’re getting used to that,” she said. “I’m impressed that they’ve already started to memorize their parts. They are having a blast.”

Her next focus will be to make a Boston Harbor backdrop.  She said some parents have volunteered to help with the scenery while others are helping with finishing touches on the hats and other props.

She also has the help of Beverly Taylor Sorensen specialist Nancy Hopkins, who taught students some period and patriotic songs they’ll be performing as well as the Sir Roger de Coverly English folk dance (similar to the Virginia Reel).

“I’m not really a drama person, but I found a love for it, and I’ve found a love for sewing. My mother’s like, ‘I didn’t know you loved to sew,’ but I guess I do,” she said. “It’s really a love of education and a love of history. Children learn more through interaction with the activities instead of just reading it. But I left this play up to them. We had a vote and the majority decided they wanted to do it so we’re doing it.”

Gotberg has traced her family lineage to Joseph Morrow, who was in the South Carolina militia. She has 19 veterans in her family and is a member of The Daughters of the American Revolution.

“I think it’s important that they learn history, but also that they embrace that history. My family line is very patriotic, so this is both a celebration and a way to honor our veterans and that’s another reason why it’s important that we’re doing it,” she said.

Through the play, Gotberg said not only are her students learning about history and theater skills, but also about leadership, self-advocacy and supporting one another.

“We have people ready to feed the lines and they’re working together, taking turns and learning how to be their own self-advocates. They know they need to learn their parts and rely on themselves and on their team,” she said. “Maybe it will help to instill a love of a different avenue, a passion and a skill they want to further develop in middle school. If not, maybe they’ll look back, remember what they’ve learned and hold this experience with fond memories.”