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Bringing Fort Ticonderoga to the Classroom

hands raisedAt Fort Ticonderoga, education is at the heart of our mission. Every day in the spring and fall, students visit us from around the corner and hours away. Our campus is bustling with inquisitive young minds, and we love the energy and questions they bring to our site. Since many schools study the American Revolution during the winter, Fort Ticonderoga goes into the classroom to connect our epic story with regional students. Our outreach program “A Soldier’s Life at Fort Ticonderoga” is a way to bring the Fort Ticonderoga experience to schools when it best fits with their curriculum. In this way, students and teachers can make meaningful connections from the topics they are studying in the classroom to the defining events that took place at Fort Ticonderoga.

Thanks to grants from the Walter Cerf Community Fund and the Lake Placid Education Foundation, Fort Ticonderoga museum staff members are able to take our educational mission on the road in 2016, reaching schools in the Adirondack Park in New York, and Addison County in Vermont. To date, we have traveled over 1,000 miles, and delivered programs for over 660 students. By the time we open for the season on May 7th, we will have traveled over 1,400 miles and reached over 860 students in 21 schools.

Maps students outreachWe have carefully constructed an interdisciplinary program, full of history, geography, math, and hands-on experiences for students. We invite students to imagine that they are a soldier traveling to, and then stationed at Fort Ticonderoga.  Students are asked to make comparisons between the lives of soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga and their own lives, and to think critically about the differences and similarities between 1775 and 2016.

Students learn about the importance of waterways for transportation in the 18th century, and the challenges of supplying a large army in a seemingly rural outpost. While learning about waterway transportation, they discover the significance of Ticonderoga as a complex of defenses guarding the portage between Lake George and Lake Champlain, and acting as a choke point on the narrow southern end of Lake Champlain.

Stuart with kidWe bring a reproduction soldier’s knapsack, full of rations, equipment, and other necessary items soldiers would carry. We also bring a full set of clothing and accoutrements for students to examine, handle, and try on, providing a tangible link for students to life in the 18th century.   Lisa, a teacher at Minerva Elementary, wrote about our visit:

It was wonderful and the students LOVED the program.  They were able to touch the reproduction clothes that a soldier wore. They saw the pack that was used to carry the blanket, food, soap, and writing notebook in it. The canteen and the gunpowder horn were also a part of the soldier’s gear. They not only learned about the gear but they also learned how many POUNDS and TONS of gear were needed for the troops during wartime. They were using math and thinking skills! As a veteran teacher I know that kids learn by doing, holding, tasting, touching, creating, and viewing artifacts.

show and tellStudents and teachers also connect our presentation to topics they have learned in their classroom prior to our visit, and afterwards. Students at Lake George Elementary asked if we would have been loyalists or patriots during the American Revolution, because they were preparing for a “Loyalists vs. Patriots” debate next week in the class. A teacher at Vergennes Elementary made comparisons to characters and vocabulary in a book her students were reading about the American Revolution.

This program has also inspired students to go beyond the classroom. A student from Weybridge Elementary School wrote to us, stating:

Thank you for the compelling presentation that you gave us. I was interested in the soldier’s strategies and how logically the rivers and locations fit together with the battle and soldiers. I now want to do more research on that topic. Thank you for giving me more opportunities to learn about history, and to study more.

smiling childStudents from Lake George Elementary asked us if we could send them pictures of a soldier’s bateau so they could compare it to a video they had seen of the Radeau, or Land Tortoise, at the bottom of Lake George.

Our outreach program “A Soldier’s Life at Fort Ticonderoga” is just another way Fort Ticonderoga serves its education mission year round. Teachers can book the program most Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from October 2015 through April 2016. More information on making a reservation can be found here.

Check out our Calendar of Events for all of the other opportunities to visit Fort Ticonderoga before we open for daily programs on May 7th!

Judy Contompasis

School and Youth Programs Coordinator