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Educators Create Innovative Lesson Plans for Sixth Annual Contest

Authors of four exemplary entries recognized by the Civil War Trust, History®

(Washington, D.C.) – The Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting America’s Civil War battlefields, and History® have announced the winners of the sixth annual Civil War Lesson Plan Contest. The annual contest encourages educators across the country to craft a unique lesson plan combining their creativity with primary source material to vividly present 19th century history in the classroom. Each year, History® awards cash prizes to the four educators who create the most exemplary lesson plans.

“We are grateful to our country’s outstanding educators who share their time-tested techniques and tips through this contest, helping improve the overall quality of history education in the United States,” said Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer. “Every one of us at the Trust had a teacher who helped instill their love of history, and this contest is our way of thanking all such inspirational educators.”

Dr. Libby O'Connell, Chief Historian and SVP of Corporate Outreach for History®, elaborated on her organization’s ongoing commitment to classroom teachers. “History® remains excited to partner with the Civil War Trust to recognize the incredible innovation taking place in our schools every day.  The work submitted by these superior teachers provides outstanding examples for other educators to emulate as they teach about this period in U.S. history.”

Erica Bell, a teacher at Edison Elementary School in Sioux Falls, S.D., won this year’s grand prize for her lesson plan entitled Southern Secession and Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential Election, which asked students to examine racial attitudes in the Civil War-era through the prism of the 1860 presidential election.

P. Suzanne Smith, from Monroe County Middle School in Forsyth, Ga., placed second for Civil War Medicine, a lesson plan exploring the practice and intellectual underpinnings of Civil War medicine, busting myths along the way.

Ruthie Caplinger, representing Jefferson City, Mo. Public Schools EER Program, placed third for Jesse James and the Effects of the Missouri Border War, a lesson plan calling for students to reenact the murder trial in order to better understand the divided loyalties in a Civil War-era border state.

Nori Lustig, from Valhalla Middle School in N.Y., was awarded honorable mention for her lesson plan entitled Civil War Letters, which asked students to compare and contrast the letters from Union and Confederate soldiers, finding common ground in Civil War experiences.

As part of the organization’s commitment to sharing proven classroom methods with educators,  the Civil War Trust publishes the winning lesson plans on its website free-of-charge. In addition to individual lesson plans, teachers may also download the organization’s comprehensive two-week Civil War Curriculum, available at three grade levels.  For more information on Trust education initiatives, visit

The 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, the Trust has preserved more than 36,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states.  Learn more at, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.