The Battle of Gettysburg played a significant role in the Civil War and the history of the United States. It’s discussed at length in pretty much every American history class. For educators who want to bring that story to life for their students, a field trip with the Gettysburg National Military Park is the best way to do it.
Students visiting the Gettysburg battlefield in south-central Pennsylvania will get the chance to walk in the shoes of a soldier, learning about the war from many different perspectives. The Gettysburg National Military Park’s K-12 programs are a fun way to educate students about this momentous time in the country’s history.
Gettysburg National Military Park Field Trips
If you want to give your students an experiential lesson, the Gettysburg National Military Park field trips are the perfect option. These experiences tell the stories of Gettysburg through the eyes of the soldiers.
The Battlefield Footsteps programs let students walk the paths the soldiers took, educating them on the daily struggles soldiers and citizens endured during the battle. The Citizenship Stories from the Battle of Gettysburg lesson introduces students to the civilians who were most affected by the battle, including a widow who surrendered her home to a general and an African-American farmer dealing with the approaching Confederates. Other lessons include showing students the loading and firing procedure for the Civil War weaponry, and walking in formation across the field of Pickett’s Charge.
The Civil War Perspectives program gives students a hands-on look at the different roles people played in the war. Students can set up a field hospital and learn the basics of medical assistance and first aid; or they can simulate the process of soldier identification for those soldiers lost in battle in an era before identity or “dog” tags were issued and read letters that the soldiers had previously written home in order to more fully understand the concepts of loss and sacrifice.
Before taking part in these programs, students can take part in preparation lessons, with classroom materials provided by the Gettysburg National Military Park. And if you’re just getting started with your Gettysburg field trip planning, then be sure to check out the “Best Field Trip Ever! Planning Kit”, a PDF that is available on both the Gettysburg Foundation and Gettysburg National Military Park websites with more information about everything offered at the park for student field trips.
Gettysburg National Military Park Educational Outreach
For teachers who aren’t close by or can’t make it to Gettysburg battlefield, there is still a way to bring the action to students. The Gettysburg National Military Park Educational Outreach program offers distance learning opportunities. The Virtual Field trips (available for middle and high school students) allow your class to learn directly from the experts. The students determine the topic they want to focus on, and a park ranger will work to investigate that topic through a video tour. The topics include the “Cost of War,” discussing the consequences of battle and whether the destruction and loss at Gettysburg was necessary to resolve the problems of the country; or “The Tide of Battle,” which asks whether one unit was more critical than another during the second day of the battle. Third- through sixth-graders can also participate in a virtual field trip centered around re-enlisting, asking whether or not one would re-enlist in the army for three years after learning the hardships of war.
Primary documents are provided by the Gettysburg National Military Park to help your students prepare for their virtual lesson. After the video tour and investigation, students are allowed to ask follow-up questions. The goal of the lesson is to give students the information and facts they need to develop their own arguments to answer the focus questions.
Opportunities for Teachers and Administrators
A visit to Gettysburg battlefield is an incredible way to teach students about this influential part of American history. They will discover more than they ever imagined through experiential field trips led by knowledgeable park rangers. Even if students can’t physically make it to the battlefield, they can still get an interactive and educational lesson through the outreach programs and virtual lessons. Gettysburg National Military Park gives students and teachers a wealth of resources to enhance their understanding of the Civil War and, in particular, Gettysburg.