Virtual Teacher Institute 2022

All of the sessions from our third annual Virtual Teacher Institute
A collage of historical images

Watch videos of the 38 sessions from our third annual Virtual Teacher Institute, and download all of the associated materials.

Over five days, we offered thirty-eight workshop sessions and engaged with educators across the globe. Browse and watch the sessions offered at our 2022 Virtual Teacher Institute. The Virtual Teacher Institute is a free program funded by the HTR Foundation and the members of the American Battlefield Trust. 

General History SessionsAmerican Revolution SessionsWar of 1812 SessionsAntebellum & Civil War SessionsEarly 20th Century Sessions

General History Sessions

“All Hands”: A History of Yankee Whaling and the U.S. Navy

For all grade levels: This presentation will highlight the relationships between American commercial whaling on the high seas and the functions of the U.S. Navy including protection and enforcement of national sovereignty, trade influence, hydrographic research, cartography, social cohesion, and the fundamental cross-pollination of the sea services in American maritime culture. Beginning at the time of the American Revolution, before there was an actual U.S. Navy, whalers aided privateers in repelling British naval actions in Buzzards Bay, MA. Whaling voyages suffered depredations on the high seas by foreign navies, as well as the Confederate Navy in the Civil War, at every period of conflict between the American Revolution and the First World War. Likewise, American whalemen either joined the navy or supported naval operations on many seas in both peace and wartime. In turn, the U.S. Navy undertook operations all around the world in support of American commerce and the whale fishery including the cruise of the USS Essex to the Pacific in the War of 1812, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, and Lieut. Matthew Fontaine Maury’s hydrographic work on the winds and currents of the world’s oceans.

Using Biographies and Timelines To Make History More Personally Relevant  

For all grade levels: Exciting life events from a historical biography can capture a listener’s imagination. But can that life story become a framework for remembering important historical dates and events? Using the biographies of the Marquis de Lafayette and Clara Barton as examples, this workshop takes a deeper dive at using real-life-stories to create a timeline that makes key historical events memorable through association. Keeping with the theme of teaching hard history, we’ll also explore how biographies can offer a lens for looking at hard subjects and how individuals worked for social change during difficult periods of the past. Don’t miss the helpful hand-outs and worksheets included with this presentation!

Alabama's Painted Bluff: Exploring & Preserving Native American Rock Art 

For all grade levels: Project Archaeology is a comprehensive place-based national education program primarily for upper elementary teachers and their students. The program teaches four overarching enduring understandings:   

  1. Understanding the past is essential for understanding the present and shaping the future. 

  2. Learning about other cultures, past and present, is essential for living in a pluralistic society and world. 

  3. Archaeology is a systemic way to learn about past cultures. 

  4. Stewardship of archaeological sites and artifacts is everyone’s responsibility.   

This workshop provides an introduction to Project Archaeology curriculum and educators will use art, history, and archaeology to learn about Native American Rock Art and the people who created it by investigating north Alabama's Painted Bluff.

Teaching Civics in the Digital Age

For all grade levels: Join 2016 American Battlefield Trust Teacher of the Year Phil Caskey as he unveils the Trust's new Civics curriculum. Phil brings years of Civics-related knowledge to the classroom and this session will be used to talk about the curriculum's new units and lessons, ways to enhance your student engagement with civics and other resources to help your civics curriculum grow.

Reel History: How Movies Influence American History and What They Can Teach Students

For all grade levels: This session will delve into the benefits of using cinema in the history classroom to facilitate student engagement with difficult topics—as well as how to use movies to help students understand how history is made, and re-made, by Hollywood. We will talk about several films, including The Patriot (2000), Glory (1989), Casablanca (1941), and Platoon (1986). We will also look at short primary source documents that work well paired with each entry. 

Our goal will be to understand how to use media to teach students not only about important historical facts, but also about the creation of historical narratives—from the initial accounts by participants, to the secondary work of professional historians (yes, textbooks!), to Hollywood adaptions. Ultimately, more students learn about history from Hollywood than any other source—and harnessing that connection pays dividends for student understanding of the historical past.

Talking About Family History in the Classroom

For all grade levels: Looking for ideas about exploring family history with children of all backgrounds and then using it in social studies? What about using family history as a lens for looking at the harder moments of our families' past and history? Gena Ortega will share from years of professional experience and genealogy studies, drawing on her expertise in women's repatriation and citizenship in the 20th century, foodways and community in fundraising cookbooks, and women's material culture while sharing practical advice for using genealogy tools in the classroom.

Seeing the First Draft of History: Technology, News and Media Ethics

For all grade levels: The evolution of communication technology creates challenges for the news business every day. That, in turn, can create challenges for teachers who try to use the news to talk about current events as well as historical ones. How does technology let us experience the news? How does it challenge us to be ethical communicators? How can we use those situations as teaching moments? From the birth of photojournalism at Antietam to Walter Cronkite in Vietnam to the live horrors of the collapsing Twin Towers on 9/11, we’ll examine some case studies that redefined the way the news media showed us the first draft of history and the ethical challenges they posed.

Remembering the Battle of the Little Bighorn: "They Died as Only Brave Men Could"

For Middle School and High School: On Sunday afternoon, June 25, 1876, Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th U.S. Cavalry into the valley of the Little Bighorn. Somewhere ahead along the river Native Americans called the Greasy Grass was a large Sioux and Cheyenne village led by the Hunkpapa medicine man, Sitting Bull. For many, they were riding into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Later that day, the Seventh clashed with warriors under Gall, Lame White Man and Crazy Horse. By sunset, Custer and five companies of the regiment lay dead, their exact fate forever shrouded by the passage of time. The battle's impact, however, would be felt on the Great Plains for decades to come.  

Join the Trust's Education Manager, Dan Davis, for an exploration of one of the famous battles in American history. We will examine the events that led up to that fateful day in the Centennial Year, meet the key participants and discuss the consequences and outcomes of this legendary engagement.

American Revolution Sessions

The Indispensables from Marblehead, Massachusetts (Keynote Session)

For all grade levels: In the annals of the American Revolution, no group played a more consequential role than the Marbleheaders. At the right time in the right place, they repeatedly altered the course of events, and their story shines new light on our understanding of the Revolution. Acclaimed historian Patrick K. O’Donnell dramatically recounts their story, beginning nearly a decade before the war started in the midst of a raging virus that divided the town politically. Marbleheaders such as Elbridge Gerry and Azor Orne spearheaded the break with Britain and shaped the nascent United States by playing a crucial role governing, building alliances, seizing British ships, forging critical supply lines, and establishing the origins of the US Navy.

The Power of Place: Researching History Where it Happened (Keynote Session)

For all grade levels: Does George Washington still matter? Bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick argues for Washington’s unique contribution to the forging of America by retracing his journey as a new president through all thirteen former colonies, which were now an unsure nation. Philbrick talks about the importance of place to learning, particularly through the lens of his books about the American Revolution.

Hard History & The Road to Yorktown

For all grade levels: The Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail (WARO), commemorates the allied French, and Continental armies during the American War of Independence, and the hundreds of miles travelled to, and from, the victorious Siege of Yorktown in 1781 and 1782. This was the largest allied troop movement of the Revolutionary War. Today, the military, logistical and cultural significance of the march deserves recognition as a pivotal point in American history. Without the assistance of thousands of soldiers and sailors, many of whom gave their lives, the outcome of the war could have been different. Besides telling the stories of French-American cooperation, the adventures of George Washington or the heroic victory at Yorktown, the trail also has its "hard history" to face. Most of the darker episodes of the march to Yorktown have been forgotten today, but with the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution coming up, they deserve to be told. And so, how do we tell the stories of death, disease, starvation, pillage and violence along the Trail? How do we educate the public about Black and Native Americans who were part of the war effort?

The British Side of the American Revolution

For all grade levels: Many students today encounter a story of the American Revolution that omits the perspective of the British and of the Loyalists who supported them. Yet it’s through an understanding of “the other side” that allows us to see the complexity of life and decision-making in the 18th century, and to truly understand what was at stake. Whether past or present, it’s important to understand the perspectives, arguments, and humanity of “the other side.”  

This workshop will introduce educators to sources representing diverse perspectives from King George III and Parliament to merchants and common soldiers. It will allow teachers to brainstorm with museum educators and each other as to how they might include these voices in their classrooms moving forward and consider how tools for practicing historical thinking can apply to contemporary conversations about divisive issues today.

The Boston Tea Party, 1773-2023: 250 Years of Significance  

For all grade levels: In 2023, the nation will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.  Described by John Adams as “The most magnificent movement of all”, the destruction of shipments of East India Company tea on December 16, 1773 would propel America down the road to revolution. Join Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Creative Manager Evan O’Brien as he discusses the historical significance and lasting legacy of the Boston Tea Party, the varied teaching methods utilized by the museum, and the commemorative preparations currently underway for the upcoming 250th anniversary.

The Discovery of Liss: Former Slave Turned Washington Spy

For all grade levels: In this presentation author and historian Claire Bellerjeau introduces her extraordinary new discovery of a woman of color named Elizabeth, or Liss. Born in Oyster Bay, New York, she was enslaved by the wealthy Townsend family, whose son Robert became George Washington's lead spy in Manhattan during the Revolutionary War. Liss's daring escape with the British, subsequent re-enslavement, and struggle for freedom gives new insight into the country's founding era, from the perspective of an enslaved Black woman seeking personal liberty in a country fighting for its own.

War of 1812 Sessions

America and the War of 1812: It's Complicated

For all grade levels: For many reasons, the War of 1812 is often given little attention in curriculum.  Let’s face it, our relationship with “Mr. Madison’s war,” its causes, conflicts, and place in American memory is complicated. This presentation will explore lessons from the War of 1812 and help teachers facilitate discussions about the modern relevance of the issues of free trade, partisanship, and American identity that defined the War of 1812.

Antebellum & Civil War Sessions

Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, and Emancipation (Keynote Session)

For all grade levels: The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most important and yet most misunderstood documents in American history. In this lecture, Dr. Jonathan W. White explores Lincoln's path to emancipation and helps to explain that edict's significance. He also unpacks the relationship that developed between Lincoln and African Americans. Prior to the Civil War, African Americans were almost entirely excluded from the White House, other than as servants or slaves. However, during the war, the racial color line was broken down as African Americans claimed the First Amendment right to petition the government. For the first time in the history of the United States, they saw the president as their president and the White House as their people’s house.

The Mythology of the Lost Cause (Keynote Session)

For all grade levels: How did the Confederate myth of the Lost Cause develop? Why was it important for ex-Confederates to establish their "history" of the war? And why has this version of the past continued to offer such a powerful hold more than 160 years after the Civil War? This session examines the origins, architects, and lasting influence of the Confederacy's most enduring legacy and how teachers might approach discussions in their classrooms.

Thenceforward and Forever Free: African American Freedom Seekers and the Complexities of Emancipation 

For all grade levels: As stewards of four major battlefields, a national cemetery, numerous monuments, and a "shrine" to Stonewall Jackson, the staff at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park encounter hard history on a regular basis. Park Ranger and Education Coordinator Peter Maugle will share techniques to address these difficult topics, specifically on field trips and the Junior Ranger program. He will emphasize appropriate acknowledgement of uncomfortable subjects without circumventing unpleasantness or complexity.

Civil War Ingenuity: A Photo Extravaganza! 

For all grade levels: As resources run short and military needs grow larger, war is often a mother of innovation and invention.  On the home front and in the field, soldiers and civilians fashioned new ways to do things—many of which had never been done before. From simple tricks to make one more comfortable to major inventions that would forever change global warfare, photographers were on the scene, documenting successes and failures alike with their bulky cameras. Garry Adelman will visually present and relate for your students the best examples of Civil War ingenuity.  From the kitchen to camp, from forts to firearms, from medicine to manpower, and from ships and saddles, come experience Civil War innovation in a manner available nowhere else.

Military Justice During the Civil War

For Middle School and High School: Though the American Civil War is today seen as a just and righteous cause for abolishing slavery and saving the Union, the process was not without its messiness. Military discipline included punishments that retrospectively can only be described as officially sanctioned torture; court martials of soldiers; and, ultimately, executions. The Trust's Education Manager Dan Davis and Education Associate Sarah Kay Bierle take a look at soldiers' crimes, and their punishments.

The Third Gettysburg Address

For all grade levels: Compelling stories and new discoveries involving iconic figures in American history like Abraham Lincoln are great ways to engage students in learning about the American Civil War. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, perhaps the most celebrated speech in the English language, was a mere two minutes long, book-ended by the two principal orations on the day of the Soldier's Cemetery dedication. The concluding speech manuscript by Charles Anderson, brother of Major Robert Anderson of Ft. Sumter fame, was recently uncovered at a ranch in Wyoming. David Dixon will recap the discovery of the long-lost oration and summarize details of Anderson's extraordinary odyssey from Texas slaveholder in 1861 to Union army colonel in 1862, to Ohio governor in 1865. He will conclude with novel perspectives on the events of November 19, 1863 and suggest new approaches to use when teaching about the Gettysburg Address in the classroom.

Virtual Learning Experiences at Gettysburg

For all grade levels: In recent years, Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center has developed a consistently growing catalogue of digital resources for students and educators. These online lessons, interactive experiences, and virtual tours cover military history, Civil War medicine, the roles of race and religion in American society, and historical memory. This program will take a deep dive into utilizing these resources, offering audiences a chance to access everything Gettysburg has to offer from the comfort of their own homes and classrooms.

"War is Cruelty and You Can Not Refine It" - Teaching the Realities of War to Young Students

For all grade levels: As stewards of four major battlefields, a national cemetery, numerous monuments, and a "shrine" to Stonewall Jackson, the staff at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park encounter hard history on a regular basis. Park Ranger and Education Coordinator Peter Maugle will share techniques to address these difficult topics, specifically on field trips and the Junior Ranger program. He will emphasize appropriate acknowledgement of uncomfortable subjects without circumventing unpleasantness or complexity.

Early 20th Century Sessions

Native Americans & World War I

For Middle School and High School: On the eve of the United States’ entrance into WWI, American Indians were survivors of over three hundred years of physical, economic, political, geographical, and spiritual devastation. The United States government neither claimed them as citizens nor respected their sovereignty. When Congress declared war in the spring of 1917, however, as much as 30 percent – or about 12,000 – of American Indian males enlisted. Why did American Indians serve in such large numbers, and how did they use their cultural and spiritual heritage to serve their country?

Teaching The Holocaust Responsibly 

For all grade levels: The Holocaust raises questions about the fragility of democracy, the use and abuse of technology and power, and the highs and lows of human behavior. During his many years at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Warren Marcus coordinated and directly presented teacher training programs onsite and around the United States for thousands of teachers. In this workshop, he will share learning tools for teaching about the Holocaust responsibly and engaging with this hard history.