Walter Cheatham saw Wednesday morning’s opportunity as a way of providing students with an interactive history lesson, exposing them to a centuries old sport, and by introducing fox hunting to a younger generation. It was also the chance to plant the seeds of preserving a way of life.
Cheatham is the 9th and 10th grade world history and science teacher at Mead Hall Episcopal School, and he’s also the Edisto Hounds joint Master of Fox Hounds. Cheatham approached Mead Hall 9th and 10th grade English teacher Donna DeTroye, who is a champion of crossing curriculum, proposing an activity that would provide the students with an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom in a very unique way.
“I talked to Donna, and she was on board,” said Cheatham.
A group of 12 students participated in the field trip that took them to a fixture regularly hunted by the Edisto Hounds. Michael Laughlin’s and William Howard’s Mill Race Farm served as the location for Wednesday morning’s event.
“This is my biology and world history class,” said Cheatham. “Fox hunting is intertwined with both the schools, Mead Hall and Aiken Prep, and with the merger it was mutually beneficial for everyone.”
But it was the up-close look at the sport, and the comprehensive analysis provided by the participating horseman, that gave the students a better understanding of the sport.
Fox hunting is a sport with a deep, rich history, but its numbers have declined, and Wednesday’s hunt provided the students with a unique perspective, said Cheatham.
“If you can show it to the younger generations, and one or two of these 12 students will say, ‘I really want to do that,’” said Cheatham. “They’ll teach their kids and preserve the sport that we love. I’m a passionate fox hunter, and would love to share it with anyone I can.”
The hunt’s participating horsemen consisted of current and former masters with the exception of one whipper-in, whose in-depth discussion of the sport, explained the terminology, and answered questions.
A tremendous amount of ground was covered in both the literal and figurative sense. The students, learned about the horses, the formal attire worn by the horsemen, the importance of the land owner and their generosity, the fixture, the significance of the whipper-in, why and how hounds are kept off adjacent property that’s not part of the hunt’s fixture, cubbing, the cost associated with the sport, the responsibilities of the Master of Fox Hounds, before they embarked on a tour of the property in the tally ho wagon, which was a pickup truck.
“It brings learning to life,” said DeTroye.
The students have also been reading literature pertaining to the sport spanning three centuries, said Cheatham.
“They can compare the three periods, but they’ll also see that fox hunting hasn’t changed,” said Cheatham. “Fox hunting is a pastime, frozen in time, and these kids are studying history and literature. This is one of the only interactive experiences they can have, and they get to see something the way it happened 300 years ago.”
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