Teacher Walter Cheatham saw an opportunity to provide students an interactive history lesson and expose them to a centuries-old sport 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 ninth 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 Donna DeTroye, a ninth and 10th-grade English teacher at Mead Hall who is a champion of crossing curriculum and proposed an activity that would let the students learn outside of the classroom in a unique way.
“I talked to Donna, and she was on board,” said Cheatham.
The result allowed a group of 12 students to participate in a field trip that took them to an area regularly hunted by the Edisto Hounds – Michael Laughlin's and William Howard's Mill Race Farm.
“This is my biology and world history class,” Cheatham said the day of the lesson, which was held late last month. “Fox hunting is intertwined with both the schools, Mead Hall and Aiken Prep, and, with the merger, it was mutually beneficial for everyone.”
Fox hunting is a sport with a deep, rich history, but its numbers have declined, and the 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 the students' questions.
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, cubbing, the cost associated with the sport and the responsibilities of the Master of Fox Hounds, before they embarked on a tour of the property in the tally ho wagon.
“It brings learning to life,” said DeTroye.
The students also have been reading literature about 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.”