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Students Get Blast From the Past

Reston Rotary tours elementaries with Thomas Jefferson re-enactor.

Bill Barker, who plays Thomas Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg, answers questions from students at Hunters Woods Elementary School Wednesday, Jan. 9, one of six stops he made over two days at local schools.

Bill Barker, who plays Thomas Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg, answers questions from students at Hunters Woods Elementary School Wednesday, Jan. 9, one of six stops he made over two days at local schools. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

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Bill Barker, a Thomas Jefferson re-enactor from Colonial Williamsburg, greets students at Hunters Woods Elementary School Wednesday, Jan. 9, as part of a tour of Reston elementary schools.

“Speaking to the students, one thing that struck me was the instant recognition of the value of science and education.”

—Bill Barker, a Thomas Jefferson re-enactor

Students across Reston elementary schools got a blast from the past Tuesday, Jan. 8 and Wednesday, Jan. 9, courtesy of the Reston Rotary Club. Bill Barker, an actor who has played Thomas Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg since 1993, toured Forest Edge, Terraset, Dogwood, Fox Mill, Hunters Woods and Lake Anne Elementary Schools to tell the students about his life and beliefs.

“We started this several years ago with an intent and passion to build better citizens,” said CarolAnn Babcock of the Reston Rotary Club, who helps coordinate the visits. “The fourth and fifth graders we visited today will be in the voting booth in another 10 years.”

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Fox Mill Elementary School in Herndon hosts Thomas Jefferson re-enactor Bill Barker Wednesday, Jan. 9. Barker was brought to six different schools last week by members of the Reston Rotary Club, which have performed outreach relating to Colonial Williamsburg for the past several years.

The third president talked to student about topics such as proper English manners and his travels across the world before answering student questions. Previously the group visited five schools in the area, but added Fox Mill this year.

“Speaking to the students, one thing that struck me was the instant recognition of the value of science and education. I spoke about the symptoms Thomas Jefferson‘s wife had after giving birth to her children, and they were able to figure out that she had diabetes, which no one knew about in Jefferson‘s age,” Barker said. “And when I asked them why we know about it now, they replied with two answers consistently: science and education. The fact that they’re aware of that is a very good thing, because as Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.’”

This is only one of the outreach efforts made by the Reston Rotary Club when it comes to local elementary schools. For the past few years they have donated money for each school to take “electronic field trips,” which are a series of online streaming presentations where students can learn about Colonial Virginia and interact with the presenters live.

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Thomas Jefferson re-enactor Bill Barker speaks at the Rotary Club of Reston’s weekly luncheon Wednesday, Jan. 9. The Rotary club took Barker to six local elementary schools last week to address students on the life and times of Jefferson.

“Efforts like this are why we hold fundraisers and come together as a club,” said Bill Ament, Reston Rotary’s treasurer. “We’re always focused on ways to support education and reach out to school, and to provide support for their efforts.”