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Saranac 4th graders receive a history lesson from Captain Ru

SARANAC - When Lisa Napper's 4th grade class returned from lunch Feb. 28, they found a stranger from the past in their classroom. Dressed in replica clothing from the Revolutionary time period, Erick Tichonuk, replica coordinator, education specialist, and nautical archeologist for the Maritime Museum, had his Powerpoint presentation set up and ready to go. Within a few minutes, the room was packed full of 4th graders from Darlene Long's class and Sherri Kourofsky's classes. Many of the boys had donned tri-cornered hats, and the girls bonnets. It was veteran teacher of 36 years, Darlene Long, who had invited Tichonuk to share his knowledge and passion of history with the 4th graders. It has been an invitation she has extended annually for many years to Tichonuk who has been an educator for the museum for 21 years. He is a great presenter, said Long, "and he gets better every year." Tichonuk posed as Captain Rue, who came up north from Bucks County Pennsylvania to serve as a captain of the gun boat, Philadelphia, in USA's first Naval fleet, right here on Lake Champlain. His presentation had three facets: Lake Champlain during the Revolutionary War, the sunken legacy of Lake Champlain, and a question and answer time. Captain Rue brought history to life from the start, grabbing and holding the students' attention. He peppered his presentation with questions for his young audience ranging from easy to challenging. The students answers exhibited an impressive knowledge of the areas history, and revealed that history has been brought to life on a regular basis by their 4th grade teachers. Many students seemed especially fascinated by the captains description of life on the gun boats which were only 54 feet long and 15 feet wide, yet were occupied 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several months straight by 44 men! The captains gunboat, Philadelphia, sank in the battle with the superior British fleet on Oct. 13, 1776. The Philadelphia was raised from the lake in 1935, fully preserved, and is now at the Smithsonian. The Maritime Museum has built a replica that they actually use for re-enactments, manning it with 44 men. Waving arms and hands continually popped up during the 20-minute question and answer time. This time would have undoubtedly lasted into the evening had the schedule allowed it. The Saranac 4th graders did not fail to ask a version of Captain Rues most frequently asked question. "Is that a real sword, and can you take it out for us to see?" Captain Rue left his audience feeling privileged to live in The middle of History Central, excited about what still lies preserved on the cold dark bottom of Lake Champlain, and hungry to continue learning. To learn more about the Maritime Museum and the educational programs it provides visit www.lcmm.org.

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