ranger program   For many years, Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site have offered programs for schools to participate it. These programs allow students to connect with the stories of the Civil War and World War II as well as the experiences of a president during the Cold War Era. The educational programs offered aren’t limited to just a Social Studies curriculum, but could apply to Science, Character Education, Language Arts, and Art curriculum.

For the 2015-2016 school year the sites are offering several new programs and some that have been presented in previous years that can be presented at the parks, at your school, or in some cases “virtually”.

Many of the programs have downloadable teacher guide books with both pre and post visit activities. These can be found on the education pages of the Gettysburg National Military Park website at www.nps.gov/gett.  Just look for “Education Planning Tools” to access the reservation forms for all of the school year offerings.

Here are the ranger field programs to be offered for 2015-2016:

Dates of Programs

Fall 2015:  October 5 to November 6 , 2015  

Spring 2016: April 4 to June 3, 2016


From Civil War to World War II

Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863

Walk in formation across the fields of Pickett’s Charge, about one mile, role-playing individual soldiers.

GRADES: 4 to 12         CLASS SIZE: 15-35     LENGTH: 2 hours (with travel time)

Ike and the Men of D-Day, June 6, 1944

Role play a draftee heading to Europe in preparation for the D-Day invasion, see his equipment and visit the Gettysburg home of his commanding general, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

GRADES: 4 to 12         CLASS SIZE: 10-45     LENGTH: 2 hours (program and site visit)

Fallen Soldiers: The National Cemetery and the Gettysburg Address

Students work in small groups simulating the process of soldier identification following the battle of Gettysburg, read letters of the soldiers graveside, and apply to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

GRADES: 7 to 12         CLASS SIZE: 10-35     LENGTH: 2 hours


Leadership and Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tour the Eisenhower National Historic Site while applying lessons of leadership and good character from throughout the life of our 34th president.

GRADES: 3 to 6           CLASS SIZE: 10-40     LENGTH: 2 hours

Determination and the 15th Alabama Infantry Infantry

Climb Big Round Top and attack Little Round Top after a forced march, and without any water… and then explore how your students can apply historical lessons of determination in their own lives.

GRADES: 4 to 12         CLASS SIZE: 15-45     LENGTH: 1 ½ hours

Courage and the 9th Massachusetts Battery

Practice the loading and firing procedure, and then follow in the path and harried activity of this as yet untested artillery unit.

GRADES: 4 to 12         CLASS SIZE: 15-45     LENGTH: 1 ½ hours

ranger programSCIENCE, S.T.E.M.  and ARTS CONNECTIONS

“Leaving the Land Better Than He Found It”: Hands-On Field Studies at

 Eisenhower’s Farm

Choose between the following modules: soil (geology, soil testing, chemistry); water (water cycle, stream study, invertebrate census);  forestry (renewable resources, natural cycles and succession); or wildlife (habitat, adaptations, wildlife management).

GRADES: 5 to 12         CLASS SIZE: 15-30     LENGTH: 2 hours

Gettysburg Parks and the Arts

Explore Gettysburg’s outdoor sculpture, the monuments, along Cemetery Ridge with a park ranger, then visit the home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower to discover 8 of his portraits and landscapes.

GRADES: All grades     CLASS SIZE: 10-35     LENGTH: 2 hours

Slyder Family Farm: Life Before, During and After the Battle

Hike down a trail to the Slyder farm, and then rotate through farming chore stations.  Role play the Slyder family and the soldiers they came into conflict with on July 2, 1863

GRADES: 3 to 8           CLASS SIZE: 15-35     LENGTH: 2 hours

Caring for the Wounded: A Civil War Field Hospital

Students follow the path of a soldier from camp to campaign to battle to first aid to transport to field hospital and finally to recovery.

GRADES: 5 to 12         CLASS SIZE: 10-35     LENGTH: 2 hours

Ranger_hatVirtual “Ask a Ranger” Programs

What is it?

Inquiry-Based Virtual Lessons for 7th -12th Grade Students

When will programs be offered?  

January and February, 2016

Length of program

45 minutes

Want your students to learn directly from primary sources, and from the fields of battle, but cannot get to Gettysburg?  Looking for a good President’s Day or leadership lesson, and want your students to discover the life and times of President Dwight D. Eisenhower?  Our new Virtual “Ask a Ranger” opportunities allow your students to direct what they want to learn and see and ask… right from your classroom!

Your students can choose their program, and will be sent after-action reports, diary entries and letters, and other primary source materials in advance to help them create document and place-based questions for the rangers. All you need is the capability to project the film clip and ranger to entire class on large screen, and we’ll do the rest!

Your class can choose to explore any one of the following themes and places:

What if…? — The Battle for Little Round Top

Explore through the eyes of Joshua Chamberlain, 20th Maine Infantry and William Oates, 15th Alabama Infantry, opposing forces at the extreme army flank, July 2, 1863.

A New Birth of Freedom? — Lincoln at Gettysburg

Explores Lincoln’s November 1863 visit to Gettysburg to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and deliver his 10-sentence Gettysburg Address.  “Visit” the Gettysburg Train Station, David Wills House and/or the National Cemetery.

Was it worth it? — Causes and Consequences

Remembers the lives of three unique individuals before, during and after the battle and the war:  Basil Biggs, a free black farmer who assists with the soldier reburials; Cornelia Hancock, who travels to Gettysburg to assist the wounded soldiers; and General Robert E. Lee.

Farm or Folly? — Eisenhower, Nehru and Khrushchev

Examine Eisenhower’s diplomatic skills and use of the Gettysburg farm for that purpose by “planning”, using primary source documents, the 1956 and 1959 visits by these world leaders.

ranger in the classroom Classroom Rangers

What is it?

A career day presentation and/or stand alone assembly by a park ranger

When will program be offered?

January through May 2016

Length of Program:

45 minutes to 1 hour

To celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service in 2016, a park ranger can be available to visit schools within a one-hour drive of Gettysburg to talk about their local National Parks (Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site) as well as the value and importance of the entire national park system.


We also have traveling trunks shipped to your school, and professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators and more!

How to Sign Up

Got to nps.gov/gett to download sign up forms.  Just look for “Education Planning Tools” to access the reservation forms for all of the school year offerings.

Scan the forms and email the forms  to GETT_Education@nps.gov

or mail the completed forms to:

Gettysburg National Military Park

Eisenhower National Historic Site

ATTN: Education Specialist

1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325

If your school district is not on our mailing list, email GETT_Education@nps.gov

or call  (717) 338-4422.


emancipationAs we move past the 150th commemoration of the Civil War and start to come upon the 150th anniversary of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, it’s an excellent time as educators to reflect on how Reconstruction is presented in our classrooms. Our second post this summer will focus in on using political cartoons to teach elements of the       Reconstruction time period.

Many times a Reconstruction unit can fall at the end of a school year and is often something that doesn’t get a whole lot of time for classroom lessons. Teaching Reconstruction get lost as a result of Civil War research projects, field trips, state testing, and other end of the year activities. In my 8th grade classroom, we often have a limited amount to time to discuss and analyze the events of the Reconstruction. The challenge becomes how to maximize the time available for teaching. The end of the year is a good time for active , creative lessons that build off concepts learned in both Social Studies and English Language Arts. Using the political cartoons of the Reconstruction era can be a quick way to have students gain an understanding of this time period and practice some skills learned already. The Library of Congress web page provides excellent resources and activities for teachers and students to easily use. For this blog post, I used the information provided at the Library of Congress “Teachers” page. The lesson called “It’s No Laughing Matter” focuses on the persuasive language techniques often used in political cartoons.

400px-AndnothismanPolitical Cartoons and Reconstruction

Political Cartoons can be an engaging way to help students understand figurative language and master higher level concepts. The English Language Arts class in my school covers these terms throughout the year, so this activity can serve to allow students to apply what they have learned.


Review with students the persuasive techniques of a political cartoon from the Library of Congress “It’s No Laughing Matter”

Irony: the difference between the way things are and the way they are supposed to be. Irony can be used to express the cartoonist’s opinion

Symbolism: using simple objects to stand for larger concepts or ideas

Labeling: objects or people can be labeled to make it clear what they represent

Exaggeration: sometimes cartoonists overdo characteristics of people or things to make a point

Analogy : a comparison between two unlike things that share some characteristics. By comparing a complex issue or situation with a more familiar one, cartoonists can help their readers see it in a different light.

Guided Practice

The Library of Congress website has a section of the lesson that allows the students to “test” themselves to see if they understand what each technique looks like in a real political cartoon. The activity gives quick feedback and explanations using real political cartoons. This activity could be done as a class or individually.

Click here for the learning activity on political cartoons

Student Activity

Analyzing Political Cartoons of the Reconstruction Era

Have students examine a set of political cartoons and drawings from the time period.

Click below to download a set of Reconstruction Political Cartoons that I use in class from the Library of Congress and National Archives

Usable Political Cartoons of Reconstruction

The Library of Congress has a basic political cartoon analysis guide to use.

Have students use the guide as a group or individually.

Political Cartoon Analysis Guide

Activity options

  • Incorporate movement by hanging the images around the room and make it a gallery walk where the cartoons are analyzed informally.
  • Place Post It notes next to the hung up images and ask students to write their thoughts on the image on the Post It and hang it up next to the corresponding image for others to see and react to.
  • Assign groups of students one of the images to analyze and then have the group share
  • Assign multiple students the same image to analyze on their own, then have them meet as a small group to discuss what they thought.


Student Created Cartoon

After students have had a chance to look at the political cartoons, have the students make up their own cartoon. I require my students to:

  • incorporate at least 2 of the persuasion techniques
  • include a written summary of what point their political cartoon is trying to make.

As a modification or adaptation, I provide a list of captions that a student could use as their main point.

Here are a few:

  • The chains of slavery may have been broken, but there are still people in bondage!
  • You got me in chains, you got me in chains with no rights!
  • Chain, Chain, Chain, chains of rules
  • America’s Next Top Criminal: Rutherfraud Hayes!!
  • The journey to true freedom is not an easy one!

Class Discussion Option

If you don’t have the class time necessary for these activities ,try this activity published by blogger and teacher Kevin Levin on his blog Civil War Memory.

(if you’re trying something like this for the first time, the end of the year may not be the right time if you haven’t established class expectations and procedures for this type of activity )

After placing students in groups , give them the task of being a Congressional committee that needs to come up with government policies to answer one , all or some of these questions depending on the time available.

It could lead to an interesting discussion. Students could write a reflection piece following the discussion and sharing .

Here are a list of potential questions to discuss that Kevin Levin has used:

(1) What responsibilities did the federal government have in protecting the rights of the newly-freed slaves?

(2) What steps should have been taken against former Confederates?

(3) What was the role of the U.S. military in enforcing the specifics of the federal government’s policy?

(4) What was the relationship between the former Confederate states and the nation?

The Gettysburg Museum

The Gettysburg Museum

Visiting Gettysburg?

If your students come to Gettysburg on a field trip and visit the museum, encourage your students to visit exhibit gallery entitled “That These Dead Shall Not Have Died in Vain” on the impact of the 13th ,14th and 15th amendments. It’s a exhibit gallery that can be overlooked, but the story told there with artifacts and a brief film help bring Reconstruction to life. Encourage your students to visit it!

Final Thoughts

The Reconstruction Era is a significant time in our nation’s history that can often be overlooked in a school year’s curriculum. Why not use the 150th anniversary of the events that took place in the late 1860s and 1870s to take a renewed look at this time in American history? Take time to read through some the resources below, you may find that your own views on Reconstruction are challenged and possibly changed.



Gettysburg Museum Map

Sleeper, Martin. “What I Got Wrong When I Taught Reconstruction.” Facinghistory.org , 15 May 2015.

Quick article with links to some good books on the topic which could give you as the instructor more background knowledge

America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War

A digital exhibit “that examines one of the most turbulent and controversial eras in American history. It presents an up-to-date portrait of a period whose unrealized goals of economic and racial justice still confront our society. Based on a museum exhibit”.

Civil War Memory blog by Kevin M. Levin found at cwmemory.com

Search the archives of the blog for “Reconstruction” and you’ll find some excellent discussions on the topic, resources and class activities.

After Reconstruction: Problems of African Americans in the South

A lesson for high school classrooms from the Library of Congress teachers page

students use the collection’s Timeline of African American History, 1852-1925 to identify problems and issues facing African Americans immediately after Reconstruction. Working in small groups on assigned issues, students search the collection for documents that describe the problem and consider opposing points of view, and suggest a remedy for the problem. Students then present the results of their research in a simulated African American Congress, modeled on a congress documented in the collection’s special presentation, Progress of a People.”

Comment here with other ideas for teaching Reconstruction!



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