Teaching Opinion

Experience History This Memorial Day Weekend

By Starr Sackstein — May 29, 2016 2 min read
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Wars have been fought throughout history for many reasons and those who have fought in those wars have done their duty to their countries often regardless of their own political positions and/or feelings about the cause.

Many see it as an obligation to do this duty and do so for the benefit of those who do not or cannot fight.

The United States became what it is after a war for independence and continued fights to protect our basic freedoms.

There were many who have given their lives in the United States so we can maintain the freedoms we have and this weekend, we pay homage to them.

One way we can bring history to life and also honor those who have fallen is to visit historical battlefield sites and learn about the struggles and fights these brave men and women (from both sides) endured to make our country what it is today.

One such battlefield is the Princeton Battlefield in New Jersey which was a part of the Revolutionary War in 1776-1777.

According to the Princeton Battlefield Society, “January 3, 1777 was a critical day in American History. With leadership from General George Washington, patriotic troops defeated British Regulars at the Battle of Princeton ...the turning point in the American Revolution.”

This field commemorates the British and American soldiers who died during this battle. The Princeton Battlefield Society are running reenactments and also have a walking tour with the history on these placards around the field.

Taking a trip with your family or your students to experience where history happened can have a profound effect. There is something about being in the space where the battles went down that add depth to the learning.

Why learn history from a textbook only when there is so much to be learned from going to the sites. These National parks offer a wealth of opportunity to bring a tangible experience to students who aren’t connecting with history.

For me, going to these historical sites has always been a launching point for further inquiry and interest. After learning one new thing, I want to learn more and am able to connect what I see with what happened and the new experiences I’m personally bringing. Imagine what this can do for our students.

In addition to paying tribute to those who have fought and died, we revisit the memory of how our country has matured over time.

Depending on where you live, there are many places worth visiting. Here are just a few I’ve been to recently and have enjoyed:

  • Independence Hall and Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Battlefields and cemetaries in Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Gettysburg, VA
  • Minute Man National Park in MA
  • Trinity Church, NY, NY
  • Princeton Battlefield
  • The locations of the Culper Spy Ring in Setauket, NY

What battlefields or historical sites have you visited and how do you use that learning in your classes to foster an interest in history? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.