Hillendale Elementary students receive visit from ‘George Washington’

Local biographer attends special assembly in honor of Presidents’ Day

By Suzanne Misciagna, Correspondent, UnionvilleTimes.com

Carl Closs talks to Hillendale Elementary third grader, Andrew Demnicki, about the life of George Washington.

PENNSBURY — Students at Hillendale Elementary school welcomed a special visitor to their school this week, just in time for Presidents’ Day – George Washington.

Second and third graders at Hillendale Elementary School in the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District were in awe as the general, portrayed by renowned George Washington ‘living biographer,’ Carl Closs, educated and entertained students with interesting facts about George Washington’s life as a young boy.

“We enjoy holding these types of assemblies for students because it gives them an opportunity to learn about history and to meet someone who has a real passion about a particular topic,” said Steve Dissinger, Hillendale Elementary School Principal.

That passion is what led Closs, a former businessman, educator, and army serviceman, to pour his heart and soul into spending countless hours studying the writings of George Washington. Since 1997, Closs has devoted his retirement to bringing George Washington to life by giving talks around the country to schools, civic groups, and businesses about Washington’s life and virtues.

So what was it like growing up as George Washington? Closs described Washington’s work ethic as a young farmer and told of his favorite pastimes such as fox hunting, writing letters, and keeping journals about life on the farm. Closs explained that while working on the farm was primarily a male responsibility, women were responsible for taking care of the home and their children.

Closs entertained students with stories of Washington’s great physical strength and his ability to do many things other boys his age couldn’t do like bending a horseshoe with both hands or taking a walnut and cracking it between his thumb and forefinger.

Students wanted to know about the artifacts Closs brought such as a cannon ball and a spinning top. Others were curious about the uniform Closs wore and wondered why George Washington wears a ‘funny’ hat or if the sword he was carrying was a real one.

Unlike the high-tech world we live in today, Closs described what it was like for George Washington to be educated in a one-room schoolhouse with no computers, iPads, or iPods, and no smart boards in the classrooms.

“Did you get a lot of homework?” one second grade student asked. “Yes,” replied Closs, “George Washington never stopped learning.”  His primary responsibility as a student was to learn like you do today. Just like Washington, everything in life is determined by your attitude,” he added.

A self-proclaimed ‘history buff,’ Closs loved learning about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars as a kid. “I was drawn to George Washington, “says Closs, “because the more I read his writings, particularly about what decisions he faced and how he made those decisions, the more I came to respect him.”

“I hope my visit at Hillendale will spark an interest in each child to learn more about George Washington,” Closs said.  “Their role as a student today, much like Washington as a young boy, is to learn all they can and apply that learning to their life.”

Judging from the students’ comments after the assembly, it appeared as though many kids did want to know more.

“I didn’t know George Washington fenced when he was 11 years old,” said Rylan Tuscher, a third grader at Hillendale.  “The artifacts he brought were interesting and he told us many things I didn’t know.” I am a huge fan of George Washington,” he added.

“I liked the artifacts he showed us,” said third grader, Gillian Haldeman, “especially the cannon ball. I also like that George Washington ate pancakes for breakfast just like I do!”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was scheduled to run Monday, but due to a technical issue was not published. We apologize.

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