Actors donned Union blues and posed as U.S. Cavalry members at Fletcher Elementary School this week to breathe some life into Western history.
The "soldiers" also displayed their 1870s gear Thursday to help two fourth-grade classes use imagination as well as books for a nine-week "living history" program.
As part of the project, the students previously visited the Mission at San Juan Capistrano and learned what it may have been like to attend the one-room Heritage Hill schoolhouse in El Toro.
Life was distinctly more difficult for youths of old, said 10-year-old Matthew Burdine.
"The chalk was really skinny and the words were really, really small in the reader," he observed.
Teacher Pat Solenberger said the details help students get a better grasp of what pioneer life was like. "What we try to do in fourth grade is live history," she said. "It's better than just reading from a book. If they live it, they'll remember it."
Fourth-grade classrooms at Fletcher are now festooned with wanted posters, miniature pioneer homes and even bales of tumbleweed.
They are not the only ones in the spirit. Members of the Western Educators, Shooters & Troopers, a nonprofit group, spend much of their own time immersed in details of the period to re-create events for students and other history buffs.
After the cavalry's presentation, the students put on their own Western show for parents, and then helped devour a chuck-wagon meal.