It’s customary to teach history from a textbook, reviewing facts and stories as they’re written on the page. But for an even more enriching experience, you can make those words leap from the book and out into the real world. The best way to do that? A Gettysburg Foundation student field trip. The Gettysburg Foundation has partnered with the National Park Service to preserve Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site. Their goal is to maintain the battlefield, enhance education about the Battle of Gettysburg and highlight its role in the war.
Gettysburg offers teachers an informative, engaging and eye-opening field trip for their students. There are several different programs and activities educators can select, depending on their lesson plan. With all the available options, there’s something for every student group at Gettysburg.
Gettysburg Foundation Student Programs
The Gettysburg Foundation and National Park Service offer several educational programs for K-12 students. These are the best way for teachers to give their students an experiential lesson. The programs allow students to see the stories of Gettysburg through a soldier’s eyes, giving them a real glimpse into one of the most important periods of American history.
Battlefield Footsteps lets students walk in the paths of Civil War regiments, teaching them about the struggles of the soldiers and everyday citizens. Citizenship: Untold Stories from the Battle of Gettysburg tells the stories of non-soldiers and what they endured during the battle. It introduces students to a widow who surrendered her home to a general and an African-American farmer dealing with the approaching Confederate Army. Other programs include walking in formation across the field of Pickett’s Charge role-playing soldiers or climbing Big Round Top and attacking Little Round Top after a forced march.
Students will get a first-hand look at different roles people played in the war with the Civil War Perspectives program. They can hike to the John Slyder Farm and perform daily farming chores, simulate the process of soldier identification following a battle, or learn the ins-and-outs of a field hospital and the tasks workers had to do.
Before participating in a ranger field trip, students can prepare with lesson plans provided by the Gettysburg Foundation.
Other Field Trip Options in Gettysburg
If the ranger field programs don’t fit into your curriculum, there are many other ways your students can experience and explore Gettysburg.
Your student group can begin the day at the Visitor Center to get background on the history of the battlefield. Start with A New Birth of Freedom, a film narrated by Morgan Freeman that focuses on the major highlights of the three-day battle. Then check out the Gettysburg Cyclorama, a massive 360-degree oil painting with a diorama of one of the most important parts of the battle, Pickett’s Charge. The Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War features 12 galleries encompassing the entire war, with a concentration on Gettysburg.
The battlefield is a whole different experience in itself. The 6,000-acre national park was the site of a tremendous battle between Union and Confederate soldiers that lasted three days, from July 1-3, 1863. There are a few different ways to see the battlefield. You can hire a licensed Battlefield Guide who will accompany your group in a school or coach bus for a standard two-hour tour. If you have a smaller student group, a Battlefield Bus Tour might work best. Your pupils can board a bus with others for a two-hour tour with a licensed guide. Or you can purchase audio CD tours at the museum to play in a vehicle.
In addition to the battlefields, there are other important monuments your students can explore. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery is the burial place of over 3,000 soldiers who perished in the battle. It was also where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address. The David Wills House played an important role in the aftermath of the battle. It was at the center of the immense clean-up process and where President Lincoln finalized the famous speech. The Eisenhower National Historic Site is the home and farm of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. While it didn’t play a role in the Civil War battle, it was an important meeting place for world leaders in the 1950s and now stands as a tribute to the themes of wars, presidencies, leadership, dedication and sacrifice.
A visit to Gettysburg Battlefield is an incredible way to make the pages of a history book come to life for your students. They’ll discover more than they ever imagined through experiential programs and informative tours of this important historical site. This is the goal of the Gettysburg Foundation. It wants to empower students and teachers by enhancing their knowledge of the Civil War, especially Gettysburg.