If you are a social studies teacher, you are almost certainly looking for ways to make history or far off places come alive to your students. During the 150th commemoration of the anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, the National Park Service with support from the Gettysburg Foundation, had not only battlefield hikes and tours, but also a tent designed specifically for children and their families. From July 1 to the 4 , close to 2,000 people from almost all 50 states and several foreign countries came through the tent.
History came alive with a “magical” stage where individuals involved in the battle of Gettysburg came “alive” to tell their story of how the battle impacted them. Children could then talk to this “visitor from the past” and find out what life might have been like. Tables were set up with period clothing and uniforms for guests to try on and feel what it might have been like to be alive in 1863. Medical items , soldier pastimes, and farming equipment all were available to touch and to come alive for the visitor. Park Rangers and Interns, Gettysburg Foundation staff, and volunteer teachers from last summer’s Bartol Conference, all provided answers to questions and descriptions of the items at hand. Nothing was behind a glass case, all was for experiencing.
Throughout the days, young visitors could join the army, cavalry, and artillery and be sworn into service in the Union army. Many were amazed at the uniforms , food, and weapons that were all a part of being a soldier. Young learners and their families worked to complete their Junior Ranger Activity Book to earn special rewards related to the 150th anniversary of the battle.
Top Ways To Make Your Classroom a Hands on Civil War museum
1. Traveling Trunk program
The Gettysburg National military park provides traveling trunks that be can signed out to schools, filled with many items similar to those used at the family activities tent in Gettysburg. Click here to find out more and how to order one for next school year. Many other national parks have them as well.
2. Civil War Sutler
Why not purchase a few items from an online Civil War Sutler or reeneactor supply company that could be used in your classroom as material objects? It would make for a great story starter and give a brief glimpse into the past.
3. Make your own artifacts!
Find something in your garage or basement that could be turned into a “Civil War artifact”. Old bottles could be used to describe the medical aspects of the war. Get a charred piece of wood from a fire pit and describe it as a burnt farmer’s house or fence and have students research what life was like for individuals impacted by the fighting. Get some old looking cloth and turn it into an old blanket or uniform article. The possibilities are endless. Be creative and your students will too.
Make Social Studies come alive in your room with material objects. Certainly much of our study of Social Studies centers around reading and researching, but using objects – whether real or “created” will get your students to see that Social Studies isn’t just maps, and pages in a text book, but real and tangible.
Comment here with your own ideas as well on using objects in your classroom!