(Washington, D.C.) - There is no better way to comprehend our nation's history than to walk in the footsteps of those who forged it. Even the most sophisticated technology cannot replace the feeling that hallowed ground evokes, and the lifelong passion for history and preservation that a visit to these treasured landscapes can inspire in students. To help make these visits possible in an era of ever-shrinking budgets, the Civil War Trust, the nation's largest battlefield preservation organization, created its Field Trip Fund, which assists teachers in planning and paying for field trips to historic sites.
"Teaching future generations about the Civil War and its enduring legacy is a key part of our preservation mission," said Trust president James Lighthizer. "Civil War hero Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain famously said, "˜in great deeds something abides; on great fields something stays.' And we're excited to help more young people visit our battlefields so they can feel that connection to history."
By filling out a form on the Trust website, teachers apply for a grant that can be applied to the cost of transportation, meals, site admission and/or guide fees. Applications are reviewed by Trust staff, who create a proposal to provide either full or partial funding, up to $1,500. In exchange for a funding commitment, applicants agree to maintain "enthusiasm equity," which may include taking photographs, writing a short article about the trip or participating with their students in Park Day, the Trust's annual community preservation event. The Field Trip Fund is administered using contributions specifically designated for educational activities; no donations toward land acquisition efforts are redirected.
The program, which will have sent more than 400 students and educators to battlefields by the end of this school year, has already been a great success. Joe Bellas, a history teacher at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio, said, "My students became inspired to protect battlefield land after they visited Harpers Ferry, Antietam and Gettysburg. My classes were very grateful to have visited such important sites and I know the educational experience will be a cherished memory for many years to come." Bellas's class also organized a fundraiser for the Trust, raising several hundred dollars for future preservation initiatives.
Teacher Justin Reese from McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa., who was able to lead his first field trip to Gettysburg National Military Park through the fund, said, "My students are still marveling at the preserved space. By sponsoring our field trip the Civil War Trust has engaged the next generation in Civil War History."
The Civil War Trust's education goals span all aspects of the war and employ numerous methods of delivery appropriate to a variety of age groups and skill levels. The Trust employs a broad approach to reach millions of people in classrooms, on battlefields, through its website, and in printed media. The popular Teacher Institute series offers free professional development to hundreds of teachers every year. Other resources include: the Civil War in4 video series, which highlights basic topics of Civil War study in four minutes or less, the Civil War Lesson Center, which provides hundreds of free lesson plans and classroom tips to educators of all stripes, the Teachers Regiment, a professional community of educators sponsored by the Civil War Trust, the Civil War Traveling Trunk program, which provides reproduction Civil War artifacts, books, music and other various materials for teachers to utilize during their Civil War instruction; contests designed for students and teachers; and Civil War Kid's 150: Fifty Fun Things to Do, See, Make, and Find for the 150th Anniversary, a book designed to help young people experience history in tangibly, interactive ways. Learn more about these and other initiatives for Educators.
Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, it has preserved more than 38,500 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.