I feel sorry for my kids sometimes, being the offspring of a history teacher every vacation included a visit to some historical monument, national park, or another area of interest to me. They loved it when they had to do their California Mission reports and we drove up and down the coast visiting as many as we could. Yet now, being 22 and 19, they are normally not as interested in such amazing destinations as I am. It was a lucky day for me when my daughter (who we helped move in to her new home in Savannah) agreed to go visit Fort Sumter!
For the last twenty plus years I have taught US History to eighth graders, including the Civil War. I have shared the artwork, the stories and the newspaper clippings, but to be able to walk into the fort and see what remains and the outskirts of the city brought it all to life.
I had an amazing visit, but of course the teacher in me was in overtime. How was I going to use this in my classroom this year. I took hundreds of photographs and I was already thinking of how I was going to connect this real life event from the Civil War to life today.
Step 1 – I need my students to connect to the event. I am going to hand out copies of my photo’s and have the students write letters to home as if they were Union soldiers trapped with in the boundaries of a Confederate state.
Step 2 – I am going to ask students to find photographs of locations where our troops are stationed today (for example Afghanistan) and journal about what it would be like to be fighting for our nation on the other side of the world.
Step 3 – Introduce the kids to Operation Gratitude and have the students write thank you letters to our troops overseas.
I am sure this will evolve into a totally different assignment by the time I get to the Civil War, but that is all part of the job!