By Howard Clemens
The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is coming up this year. This occasion gives student travel groups a rare opportunity to gain insight into one of the Civil War’s most pivotal events.
Because of the proximity of both places, student trips to Washington D.C. often include tours of Gettysburg. Both excursions offer multiple opportunities for interactive learning.
The Gettysburg battlefield, located in the quaint, picturesque town of the same name, has many events planned for the anniversary. The crowd turn out for the celebrations is expected to be huge, and student travel groups from all over the world are expected to see Gettysburg during the 150th Anniversary celebration.
Special events that are part of the festivities are slated to run through most of the year—from April all the way through November. Students can experience the Gettysburg Diorama, which is the U.S.’s biggest and most detailed military diorama. Diorama shows run daily, and detail the three days of Gettysburg battle in a fully-narrated light and sound show.
On November 19, 2013 there will be an official ceremony at the Soldier’s National Monument, featuring the US Marine Corps band and a keynote speaker, to be announced. A past keynote speaker was Stephen Spielberg. If student tour schedules can be adapted to include Gettysburg events, a wider range of travel and learning experiences will be available to students and teachers.
Gettysburg 150th Anniversary Lineup Offers Many Creative, Interactive Activities for Students
Students can experience Living History Weekends on the Gettysburg battlefield, which start in April and continue through the end of October. This series includes evening storytelling by the campfire, historical reenactments, and other exciting educational events. The Gettysburg Preservation Walk, a fully narrated, 45 minute guided tour around the battlefield, can help students glean a greater understanding of what living in the time of the Civil War must have been like. A variety of parades, complete with fireworks and full regalia, will also take place regularly throughout 2013.
Students can experience Civil War Lecture Dinner Cruises, or all-day events like the Encounter with History Seminar Series. The Civil War Heritage Foundation offers a Living History Encampment Series, where, according to their website, students will be “welcome to actively learn by strolling through the camp, viewing drills and demonstrations, and engaging in conversation with historians.”
Gettysburg and Washington DC Offer Diverse Educational Travel Experiences for Student Travel Groups
The road from Gettysburg to Washington D.C. encompasses American history along the way. In Washington D.C., travel groups can visit Ford’s Theater, site of President Lincoln’s assassination, and the nearby Peterson House, where he died. Both places can offer profound insights to students, and increase their knowledge of the personal and national impact of the Civil War. Students can also visit the Lincoln Cottage, where Lincoln created the Emancipation Proclamation. The cottage is also notable as “bookending” the Civil War because Lincoln first visited it three days prior to his inauguration and last visited it on the day before he was assassinated. And, as ever, there are many other activities for student tour groups visiting the Washington D.C. area, like strolling through the Botanical Gardens, visiting Georgetown, or taking one of the many cruises the city offers, like the famous Cherry Blossom Cruise (great for groups traveling in the springtime) or the Spirit of Washington cruise.
Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to engage in active learning experiences and studies about the Civil War. Student travel group leaders who choose to create tours of both locations give their students a wider lens to view the Civil War and its implications. Student groups traveling to Gettysburg for the 150th Anniversary will remember this point in contemporary history as they reflect upon the past.