The teachers became the students this week at Drayton Hall.
On Friday, the fifth and final instruction day of a continuing- education course, 21 K-12 teachers, mostly social studies instructors, gathered around an archaeological dig adjacent to the plantation house.
They would be searching for evidence of a covered walkway shown extending from the house in a 1765 watercolor depicting the property.
Sarah Stroud, archaeologist and preservation coordinator at Drayton Hall, said one team would use toothbrushes and dental picks to clean the bits of pottery, glass, pipe stems and other artifacts found earlier in the week.
"Don't scrape the artifacts with the dental picks. Brush, brush," said Stroud, who repeated instructions to her grown-up students. "Don't step onto the plastic units, they're slippery. Slippery, slippery!"
The rest of the group would be digging two new 5-foot-by-5-foot squares of dirt, dubbed archaeological units, and sifting the soil into wheelbarrows.
As with any class, there was a clown in the group.
"What if one of the artifacts crumbles in our hands?" asked Barbara Crosby, who teaches second grade at Sangaree Elementary in Summerville.
"Do we just curl up and die?"
"You put it in the other person's bowl," said Rikki Davenport, one of the class' instructors.
Davenport, who taught high school social studies for nine years, has organized teacher workshops every two years since she has worked at Drayton Hall. But this is the first year she has offered college credit.
"I knew we could bring in more teachers and they could get more from it," said Davenport, who is also the curator of education for Drayton Hall.
"Myself and Leslie Newman became adjunct instructors at the College of Charleston, we created the class from scratch and we secured a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Hearst Foundation."
That $14,100 grant plus staff time provided by Drayton Hall meant that most of the teachers had to pay only $105 for the course, which took them on premium tours of such historic sites as the Old Slave Mart Museum, Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter, the Powder Magazine, the Hunley and the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, near Beaufort.
"The whole idea here and something I feel very passionate about it site-based education," Davenport said. "In the Lowcountry, we have numerous rich resources for our students to be able to see. Unfortunately, many schools are not able to get out to these places. I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that teachers could teach their students about the sites that they can't necessarily get to on field trips."
Most of the teachers were from the tri-county area, but Debbie Gould and Carol Whisman made quite a field trip to attend the class: They drove 20 1/2 hours from Kansas.
Gould had taken a school trip to Charleston in May, but was able to see only Fort Sumter and the Yorktown, so she came back to see the rest and brought Whisman with her.
Both teachers said they most enjoyed learning about the Civil War from a Southern perspective. They also marveled at the lush greenery of their surroundings, the hospitality of the fellow teachers and the amount of history in South Carolina, chartered as a colony in 1663, compared with Kansas, which became a territory in 1854.
"We're such a young state in comparison to you here, that to find things from the American Revolution or the French and Indian War or even before has just been an incredible experience and we're so glad we came and they let us in," Gould said.
"I was telling these guys last night in the van, 'Your stories are going to end up in a Kansas classroom.' "
For the final exam on July 25, each teacher will present one of his or her three required lesson plans based on historic site visits. All 21 teachers will be provided their colleagues' work, meaning each teacher will end the course with 63 lesson plans.
The plans also will be posted on Drayton Hall's website. Davenport said they already have a waiting list for next summer.