(Valley Forge, Pa.) – Approximately 200 K-12 educators will convene for the American Battlefield Trust’s annual National Teacher Institute, a career development conference to encourage history education, July 12-15 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The institute provides three and a half days of workshops, battlefield and museum tours and guest lectures to give educators the tools to more creatively and engagingly teach about the pivotal conflicts of America’s first century.
Participants will learn firsthand at key sites of the American Revolution and the Civil War, and come in close contact with artifacts, images and documents, the “real stuff” of history. Guests speakers include Penn State historian Dr. Carol Reardon, historian Dr. Chris Mackowski, and author David O. Stewart, who will lecture on historical myth-making and how our national identity developed during the course of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.
With more than 200 teachers expected from 24 states and the District of Columbia, this year’s institute, the 18th to be held by the Trust, looks to be the largest ever. Its methods produce positive results in teachers who, over the course of their careers, will influence hundreds of thousands of young people. In addition to instructional enrichment for the upcoming school year, attendees will earn continuing education units and certifications through Virginia Tech University, helping career development for K-12 educators.
Educators visit a battlefield during during the National Teacher Institute, one of the Trust's longest-running education programs.
Garry Adelman / American Battlefield Trust
The nonprofit, nonpartisan American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. Through its Teacher Institute, the Trust helps educators learn how to bring history to life for their students. The Trust serves educators faced with shrinking budgets by providing no-cost curriculum and resources including maps, animated videos, biographies, quizzes and more to help teach history. The Trust also benefits students directly through its Field Trip Fund, which over the past three years has enabled 20,000 students from 23 states to visit 77 Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War history sites on actual battlefields such as Antietam, Gettysburg and Chattanooga, and dozens more where conflicts from America’s formative first century were fought.
“The American Battlefield Trust believes passionately in the power of teachers to inspire the students under their charge,” Trust president James Lighthizer said. “The Teacher Institute empowers teachers by fostering new approaches, different techniques and fresh perspectives to engage and inform students about U.S. history.”
The Valley Forge Teacher Institute comes on the heels of the Trust’s selection by the U.S. Department of the Interior as the national nonprofit leader for the 250th commemoration of the founding of the United States. The Trust will be working with the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission to plan a commemoration that encourages history education and historic preservation. According to Lighthizer, initiatives like the Teacher Institute can play a key role in the 250th commemoration: “We are excited by this new opportunity to work with educators throughout the country to inspire interest in American history.”
At this year’s institute, Reardon, the institute’s keynote speaker, will examine the difference between history and popular memory of history, including how persistent myths influence teaching of the Civil War. Museum of the American Revolution Education Manager Adrienne Whaley will lead a workshop on African-Americans in the Revolution, comparing their choices in British versus American military service. Stewart, author of “Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America” and other works, will bridge the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, including how they influenced today’s form of government.
Nationally recognized teacher Bruce A. Lesh, author of “Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer? Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7–12,” will ask if students’ knowledge of history is in decline, examining 100 years of research. To help students retain, understand and enjoy what they learn, Lesh uses an inquiry-based method, urging teachers to make every student a historian by giving them a question to examine using primary sources, and not insisting that there is only one right answer.
Trust Education Manager Kristopher White will explore how the American army evolved during America’s first century, what soldiers learned from combat, the political problems encountered by the military, and how our armed forces improved over time- issues that carried into the 20th century.
Participants will choose from tours devoted to the Revolutionary War or the Civil War’s Gettysburg Campaign. In “Old City” Philadelphia, Whaley, White and Mackowski will explore the nation’s founding with workshops and tours at the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the new American Revolution museum. Timothy Smith, an author, Gettysburg historian, and licensed battlefield guide, will lead a full-day tour of overlooked sites in the Civil War’s Gettysburg Campaign, including Carlisle and York. In Harrisburg, Pa., Smith and National Civil War Museum CEO Wayne Motts will take participants behind the scenes inside the museum so teachers can get their hands on some of the best artifacts in its collection.
Attendees of the 2017 institute praised the knowledge and passion of its presenters and guides. “Thank you for this wonderful professional development for teachers,” Pilar Svendsend said. “I was inspired, educated and enthralled with the opportunity that this conference afforded.”
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 50,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.