Second-grade students at Sarah Smith Elementary School were recently given a unique opportunity to experience the Titanic in a way that few ever have.
On Feb. 18, students received a firsthand look at a handful of artifacts from the Titanic that included a U.S. silver certificate, leather wallet, post card, gigantic wrench, dinner plates used by various passengers, and a broken chandelier.
They also participated in a special hands-on activity designed to help simulate a wireless telegraph used to transmit a “SOS” message – much like operators did on April 15, 1912, when the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg on its way to North America. At the time, the Titanic was the most opulent passenger liner in the world, thanks to its massive size, fast mode of travel, and amenities like hot meals and running water.
According to Bretton Hunchak, president and CEO of RMS Titanic, Inc., the assembly was designed to expose children to lessons in social studies and social and emotional learning, as well as share a significant aspect of American history.
“My generation had James Cameron’s [Titanic] movie, and I don’t want the stories to be lost on this generation,” Hunchak said. “In order to immortalize the passengers and crew of the Titanic, I think re-engaging with the story and bringing it back to students through new artifacts and new storylines is the best way to do it.”
Thanks to representatives with RMS Titanic, Inc. (E/M Group), students learned even more about the shipwreck, the Titanic’s history, and how it stands today. The group visited Sarah Smith to announce its plans to return for its ninth dive this summer to recover the Marconi Wireless Telegraph, a device which transmitted telegraph signals by radio waves across oceans. The group also plans to recover additional artifacts.
During the visit, students were also shown a video about the Titanic, which carried thousands of passengers from all walks of life.
From there, the eager second graders learned several other interesting facts about the Titanic, such as: the ship carried nearly 2,300 passengers from across the world who traveled in first, second and third class – of which women and children in first class were rescued first; the water was so cold that many people didn’t survive when the ship sank; and the ship sank crashed in the middle of the night and took about five hours from the time of the crash to rescue passengers.
Only 705 passengers survived.
At the end of the assembly, students received replica boarding passes with real passenger names on them, along with a piece of coal rescued from the ship to commemmorate the experience.
Seven-year-old Molly Heller said she loved learning about the Titanic.
“Everything was rusty and old, and everything old is cool,” she said. “So many people were on the ship.”
Teacher Latifah Williams said the assembly helped reinforce key lessons for her students.
“I hope my students can empathize and learn from the history of the Titanic,” Williams said. “I also hope they will be able to practice being researchers. They can take their ‘boarding pass’ and spend time learning about those people and their lives.”