SHREVEPORT, La. (NNS) -- Throughout the span of four days, USS Constitution Sailors were about to reach out to more than 3,300 students in Louisiana during Bossier City-Shreveport Navy Week, April 28 - May 1.
"Getting to teach these kids was a great experience," said Chief Boatswain's Mate Allan Hawthorne, assigned to USS Constitution. "The area is mostly Air Force, so getting to teach them about the Navy and watching their eyes light up when I talked about my 20 years worth of experiences was humbling."
The schools visited hosted a variety of grades, from kindergarten to 8th grade. Old Ironsides' Sailors gave their presentations in either the schools' gymnasiums or auditoriums, and students were able to see visual representations of the ship and how it was constructed and operated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-based presentation.
"Most of these kids have never heard of USS Constitution, let alone know what it looks like," said Yeoman 3rd Class Brianna Bays, a Constitution Sailor. "It was funny to see the students' reaction to seeing a big wooden sailing vessel from the 19th century, and they were surprised that we came all the way from Boston just to teach them. They seemed to respect that."
Most of the audiences tended to be more than 100 students at a time, however kids were encouraged to asked questions at the end of presentations, and many came up to Sailors afterward to ask Old Ironsides' crew, as well as to take the occasional 'Selfie-With-A-Sailor'.
"The kids had an awesome time with the Sailors," said Tyree Lewis, an assistant at Forest Hill Elementary School. "At first they were taken back because of the different uniforms y'all wear, but after they figured out it was the first uniform in the Navy, and they came around to it. They loved learning how to tie knots, and touching the cutlass."
Navy Weeks focus a variety of assets, equipment and personnel on a single city for a week-long series of engagements designed to bring America's Navy closer to the people it protects, in cities that don't have a large naval presence.
USS Constitution Sailors also visited Forest Hill Elementary's after-school program, Volunteers of America's LightHouse, as a part of Bossier City-Shreveport Navy Week on Wednesday, April 29.
"It was the most excited group of kids we've seen yet," said Bays. "The kids reacted with great enthusiasm, and were eager to participate in the activities we brought to share with them."
The Sailors spent two hours with students from kindergarten up to 5th grade. Old Ironsides' crew helped with setting up meals for the children, teaching them to tie knots, explaining pieces of their 1813 Sailor uniform, and educating them about the ship's rich history.
The LightHouse program was established in the Shreveport area in 1986, and offers children a venue with supervision that allows them to work towards accomplishing educational achievement, economic self-sufficiency and productive citizenship.
The program, as a whole, has around 600 children in six different locations, each of which received Navy guests in correlation of the Navy week.
"It's awesome to see Sailors, especially from such a unique ship, travel all the way from Boston to come see us in Shreveport," said Lewis. "I think this is going to be an experience that sticks with these kids for a while."
USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat, actively defended sea-lanes against global threats from 1797 to 1855. Now a featured destination on Boston's Freedom Trail, Constitution and her crew of U.S. Navy Sailors offer community outreach and education about the ship's history and the importance of naval seapower to more than 500,000 visitors each year. USS Constitution is scheduled to be dry docked in Charlestown Navy Yard in May 2015 for a three-year planned restoration period.
For more news and information on USS Constitution, visit www.navy.mil/local/constitution or www.facebook.com/ussconstitutionofficial.