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Bicentennial program blends music, history

Scappoose students celebrate 'Star-Spangled Banner,' learn why it was written

Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - The Scappoose High School Chamber Choir, under the direction of Kristen J. Caldwell (right), sings 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at an assembly for Grant Watts Elementary School students. Children under the tutelage of Lynnda Fuller, the district's music teacher for kindergarten through third grade, learned the song and its history in time for the bicentennial of its writing Monday, Sept. 15.Two hundred years ago last weekend, a fleet of warships bombarded a fort at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor.

The outcome of the battle may have changed the course of history — a British assault against the fledgling United States that previously appeared inexorable was broken, and a month later, the peace talks that ultimately ended the War of 1812 began. It also produced one of the most iconic American moments, commemorated in perhaps the most iconic American song: “The Star-Spangled Banner” that still flew over Fort McHenry, American poet Francis Scott Key observed from his place aboard a British ship of the line, as the invading armada withdrew in defeat.

Under the direction of music teacher Lynnda Fuller, students at Grant Watts and Warren elementary schools learned about this chapter of American history, as well as the song that has been immortalized as the national anthem.

“Last spring, we started learning about it and talking about it, telling the kids that it was coming up,” said Fuller.

Of students’ response to the lessons, Fuller said, “They’re very interested. We’ve had a lot of fun. We dramatize it, we act it out — we have the king, we have Francis Scott Key. ... We’ve read it, we’ve acted it out, we’ve had it out with cut-out pictures. We’ve done many different learning styles, so they’re very familiar with it.”

Grant Watts students went to neighboring Scappoose High School last Friday, Sept. 12, for an assembly and performance by Scappoose High choir students of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A similar assembly was held the following Monday at Warren.

At Scappoose High, Grant Watts Principal Dana Larson hit on a method of keeping elementary school students engaged all throughout a short presentation explaining the War of 1812 and a National Geographic Channel segment about the assault on Fort McHenry: inviting them to shout “happy birthday!” at certain parts of the assembly.

At Warren, Fuller explained to students that they have a better way of resolving their difficulties than doing what the United States and United Kingdom did during the 1810s.

“Now, in our school, we know that we solve problems ... [by] talking to Miss Bree [Fawk, the school counselor], or things like that. But they didn’t do that,” Fuller said. “England and America were at war.”

Fuller’s students now know the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance by heart. They know how to salute the flag and that they are expected to show it respect.

Asked after one assembly why it was important that her students learn about “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Fuller responded, “I think we need to know where we’ve come from, and we need to know why. Why do we sing this song? Where did it come from?”

She continued, “It’s significant when you see music and history tied so closely together — that this wasn’t a song that was just made up for commercial purposes, that it was a poem. So it’s multiple art forms. It’s poetry, it’s music, it’s history, it’s performance. It’s so many different things that are integral to each other.”