Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Antietam. . .An Outdoor Classroom for Students of All Ages

The Mumma Farm: The Education Center at the Antietam National Battlefield

Antietam Battlefield is more than just a National Park. It is also an outdoor classroom. Every year at the park, we get scores of military groups who come by to learn about strategy, tactics, leadership, and a host of other military topics using the terrain of the battlefield as their guide. In addition, each year we get thousands--many thousands--of school kids that come through the park to learn about the battle and to learn about the soldiers who comprised the ranks of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia.
Park Rangers Christie Stanczak and Gordie Thorpe head up the Education Department at the Antietam National Battlefield and they do an incredible job in developing and presenting educational programs to school groups, whether they be 5th graders or 12th graders. Christie and Gordie have developed a wide range of Civil War programs for these students, each one being a "hands-on" learning experience. There is, for example, the Civil War Soldier program, during which students learn what it was like to be a soldier in the ranks. Also, Cannoneers to Your Posts! explains the operation of a Civil War cannon crew and the many steps involved in loading and firing a cannon. Angels of the Battlefield is another program; this one helps students learn about Civil War medicine and the methods of battlefield care for the wounded and dying. And there is also Flags that Talk, an excellent program that discusses the use of Signal Flag technology during the war. There are other programs as well, and teachers, seeking a greater learning experience for their students, can request any combination of them when arranging to tour the battlefield.
Well, last week, fellow Seasonal (and fellow Blogger), Mannie Gentile and myself were "signed off," so to speak, on presenting these programs to school groups. Mannie and I both hold instructional certificates (I am certified in Citizenship Education, 7-12, and Social Studies, 9-12), and we both have several years' experience in public schools as substitute teachers. I thoroughly enjoy teaching and get great satisfaction at seeing the metaphorical lightbulb turn on when a student learns something new. So when I was asked if would be interested in learning the education programs at the Park, I jumped at the opportunity. Today, for the first, I participated in presenting the Cannoneers to Your Posts! program to a group of 11th and 12th graders from Cincinatti, Ohio, and, simply put, I had a great time.
I always recognized the tremendous value of having such programming available to students when they travel to the battlefield, but today I got a chance to realize firsthand how absolutely integral and essential it is. The students who participate in such programs, I am convinced, walk away from their trip to the battlefield with a better understanding of the battle and of the war than if they simply seen the park from their seats in the bus. With the school group season upon us, I look forward to helping out Christie, Gordie, and Mannie, a lot more in presenting education programs at the Antietam National Battlefield.
Teachers, if you are interested in scheduling a trip to Antietam, click on this link:


Jim Beeghley said...


I would like permission to cross post this on my blog:

John David Hoptak said...

Mr. Beeghley~
You certainly do have my permission to cross post on your blog. Thanks.
John Hoptak

Anonymous said...

John - First off, GREAT blog post on Antietam. You look incredibly familiar - Did I meet you at the Visitor's Center a couple weekends ago? My father and I came in to see Mannie and I believe that you were the gentleman that we spoke to. He was over at the Smith house(?) and you were going to call him but he walked in? All you Ranger dudes look the same in your hats. :)

John David Hoptak said...

Hi Michael~

Yes, indeed, that was me. Mannie told me you were the owner of the Pinstripe Press. I should have introduced myself, especially since I am too a NY Yankees fan! Thanks for the comment.
John Hoptak

Jim Beeghley said...


Wanted to let you know that I uploaded the post to my blog.

Thanks again and I'll be sure to say hello during my next trip to Antietam.