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Life Long Learning

A ritual growing up was the inevitable question at dinnertime: “What did you learn today?” The answer varied from day to day. It might be the latest proof in geometry, a tidbit about the African nation of Upper Volta from social studies, or how to throw a spiral pass with a football in gym class. While my Dad was asking about school, he was also implicitly teaching me that learning is an on-going process. For him, “you learn something new every day” was more than a saying, it was a way of life.

We are all life long learners. Regardless of our vocations or the stage of life we are passing through, we are still learning something new every day. As one of my mentors in college noted, “We’re all on the highway of learning; it’s just that some of us are further down the road than others.”

Whether they think of it this way or not, every visitor who drives onto the Ticonderoga peninsula is a life long learner. They are going to go away knowing at least one new thing, even if they aren’t trying to!

Last month I had the opportunity to work with a group of senior citizens from Shelburne, Vermont. I travelled over to Shelburne on Tuesday and gave a presentation on Fort Ticonderoga to about 50 people. It’s always dangerous to speak in a darkened room right after lunch, but it proved to be one of the best audiences I’ve spoken to in a long time.

Two days later, 40 of these folks travelled to Fort Ticonderoga to spend a day learning about a broad scope of our history. Starting atop Mount Defiance, we discussed the geographic significance of the Ticonderoga peninsula on the historic north-south waterway connecting French Canada and the British colonies. We also talked about John Burgoyne’s 1777 campaign and his use of Mount Defiance to help push the American’s out of Ticonderoga on July 5th/6th, 1777.

Upon our arrival at Fort Ticonderoga, Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation, gave a presentation that provided background in understanding the clothing constructed and worn by our interpretive staff this season as we interpret the year 1755. The group had the opportunity to ask questions and examine and pass around examples of the re-production clothing made and worn by our staff.

After a re-fueling stop at the America’s Fort Café, the group learned about the fighting techniques and weapons used by French soldiers in a North America quite unlike southern France where the Languedoc soldiers came from.

Heidi Karkoski, Director of Horticulture, gave the group a tour of the King’s Garden, discussing the original plan of Marion Coffin and the challenges of replicating a 90-year-old planting plan as the available plants change, as has the climate and growing conditions in the garden.

The day concluded with a behind-the-scenes discussion about the construction and reconstruction of Fort Ticonderoga with Curator of Collections Chris Fox.

Not every group receives such an in-depth learning experience, but Fort Ticonderoga offers a full array of learning opportunities for life-long learners. As we transition into fall and inevitably winter, we have a number of chances for expanding our knowledge base.

Our “Fort Fever Series!” resumes in January with afternoon programs one Sunday a month through April. These one-hour programs feature members of the Fort Ticonderoga staff sharing their expertise and expanding knowledge base through presentations or by leading explorations of the landscape. Admission for these programs is collected at the door: $10/person; free for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga.

The Fourth Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” seminar January 25 & 26 takes a closer look at elements of 18th-century material culture, and includes presentation by Fort staff and experts in their fields. Topics in 2014 include: 18th-century entrenching tools, 18th-century English sailor clothing, Massachusetts Provincial arms, 18th-centry soldiers’ shoes, and 18th-century tents. Pre-registration is required to attend this seminar.

Our Interpretation Department offers a series of Clothing and Accoutrement Workshops January through April as well. These hands-on weekend workshops focus on specific elements of clothing or accoutrements that help support our upcoming 2014 living history events. Pre-registration is required.

And as our thoughts move from winter to spring, the Third Annual Garden and Landscape Symposium on April 12, 2014, provides inspiration and practical advice for home gardeners. This day-long symposium includes four sessions and a roundtable discussion with all the day’s presenters. Again, pre-registration is required to attend.

Learning is a life-long pursuit that never ends. At Fort Ticonderoga, our expanded calendar of life long learning opportunities means there’s always something new to learn at Fort Ticonderoga!

Rich Strum
Director of Education