One more marked off my bucket list!

Now that I am home and have had a chance to digest all that we did I am blown away.  While we were in New York I knew we were doing a lot, but to look back over two weeks of trip I am amazed!  I know my kids will benefit from all that I have learned during this trip as well as the previous two trips I have had the privilege of going on with the grant.  The kids are not the only ones that benefit from the knowledge I acquire on these trips because I love to share my newly acquired knowledge with  my colleagues as well. 

The trips we have taken are always more than just learning about a place and the historical significance of an area.  Although we do get that knowledge we also get a glimpse at a way of living that can be very different from our own.  I had a few “ah ha” moments myself that I hope my kids will also find interesting and informative.  For example, I was a little shocked to learn that many of the kids ride the subway to and from school each day.  Seeing the area and how people drive it makes perfect sense for them, but is a foreign concept in our area.  The subway system itself is an idea that my kids don’t fully understand.  A very small number of my kids have ridden a subway and a slightly smaller number have been on the train at DIA and that is what I compare the subway to so they can get a picture in their heads.

I am excited to hang up the posters, maps, and pictures I purchased on my trip so my kids can get up close to look at and touch.  I think the more the kids can handle materials the better they will retain the information I share.  I am also excited to share pictures with them and allow them time to ask questions.  Some of my best discussions have come from just sharing some of my pictures from the trip and letting them ask about things they see.

I want to thank Matt, Jonathan, and Scott again for an amazing trip.  You three always work so hard to ensure that we will get the most out of trips and that we actually learn!  Yes, Jonathan, I do remember this is a class!


A fort and a battlefield

The final day of our trip was interesting because I had very little knowledge of these two sites before the day began.  Fort Ticonderoga was an amazing site.  It reminded me of Bent’s Fort near us, but with more artifacts and it is also much larger then Bent’s Fort.  It would be a great lesson to compare and contrast the two forts and how they played a part in our history.

 Our guide, as well as the re-enactors who were at the fort, were very knowledgeable and willing to answer questions regarding the fort.  The fort played a pivotal role in the French and Indian war leaving it with a reputation as being impenetrable.  In the Revolutionary war the myth that the fort could withstand any siege gave the Americans too much confidence and nearly allowed them to be overtaken by the British.  The general in charge realized the adverse consequences before it was too late and abandoned the fort in the middle of the night.  Later when it was discovered that the fort had fallen without a shot fired the higher officials released him of his command. 

It would be a great debate to have with the kids to see what they would have done if they were the general in charge.  I could divide them into two groups, the ones that agree with the general’s decisions and the ones who do not and have them work together to make a list of reasons for their decision.  Each group would share their reasons with the other group and then we could discuss how sometimes in war decisions have to be made that are not popular and sometimes they have to make a decision knowing that they will put people in danger and possibly killed.

The other site we visited today was Saratoga.  I read about it a little in high school but have not studied it much since.  It was interesting to see how the Americans strategically placed fences and look outs to gain the upper hand in the battles.  During our tour we also got to see a monument to Benedict Arnold which was interesting considering he was a traitor.  Our guide did a good job of explaining why some people felt he needed a memorial and also why there was a need to put a fence around it.  I thought it was interesting that he compared Benedict Arnold to Timothy McVey.  Although my kids would not know who McVey is I think we could have a discussion about whether a man who served his country and then made a bad choice after that should be honored for the service to their country. 

I found it interesting that the park service at Saratoga have some of the facts miss marked but haven’t changed it because of the cost.  I think this could bring up a good point to the kids of how history is always changing and can be perceived differently depending on who is telling the story.   I want them to also know that history can always be questioned and it is always changing as more information is discovered.

A flying trip through upstate New York

Today was a full day and I mean REALLY full!  We left our hotel room at 7am herded by Matt telling us we can’t be late at all today or it will mess everything up.  After about a three hour bus ride to Seneca Falls, the home of Woman’s Rights National Historic Park and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home, we were given a quick overview of the woman’s rights movement in the mid and late 1800’s.  We had a chance to tour the gallery and I saw some things that struck me and made me think about how little my kids know about the separation of the sexes at the turn of the century.  I especially liked the exhibit showing the toys separated on pink shelves and blue shelves.  I would like to do an activity where I bring in a collection of toys (or photos of toys) from different time periods as well as some from today and ask the kids to sort them into two equal groups without giving any direction as to how they should be sorted to see how they do it.  We could discuss why they sorted them that way and if they thought about who should play with each toy when they were sorting them.

After visiting the Stanton and M’Clintock homes we had a chance to see the Seward home.  It was a very interesting home because the Seward’s were a packrat family and the home stayed in the family until William Seward’s grandson turned it over to the city.  Everything besides a few curtains and the carpets are original to the house. 

Seward is known as being Lincoln’s Secretary of State as well as being the one to purchase Alaska.  At the time he was ridiculed for the purchase as being a waste of public money, later it turned out to be a wonderful investment for the U.S.  Seward ran for president but didn’t make it because of his radical views on abolishing slavery.  I have never taught anything about Seward but after our visit today I think I will try to find a way to squeeze him into my curriculum. 

We also had a very quick tour of the Harriet Tubman house.  I wish we had more time to look through her house and get some more information because we do discuss the Underground Railroad in one of our reading books.  I did find out some information I did not know before so I will add that into my discussions.  I never realized the she owned so much land.  She was given seven acres from William Seward but said she wouldn’t take charity so she made payments.  Later the property across the road went up for sale so she purchased that land as well bringing her total land amount to 33 acres.  She used the buildings on that property for an old age home and later for a hospital as well.  She lived an extraordinary life, but I am not sure she saw it that way.  She probably just figured she was doing what had to be done.

I want to expand our study of the Underground Railroad so the kids can see how important it is to do what you feel is right.  I also want to do more on Harriet Tubman so that they can see that history is not just about white men.  This entire day is a great lesson on that very point and I hope to get that through to the kids.

Baseball, Art, and History

Going to Cooperstown was a pretty amazing experience.  I didn’t really think I would be all that into it.  Even though I enjoy baseball I have never felt a need to visit the Hall of Fame.  However, as I walked through the hall of plagues recognizing the great men (and one woman who I saw) of baseball was very exciting.  I got goosebumps seeing the names of some of the greatest ball players in history.  Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, the number of plagues was astounding.  They not only recognize great players but also great couches and umpires.  We had a wonderful guide who gave us some information about bringing the hall of fame into our classrooms and also gave us some hard materials to take home.  We were able then to go explore the huge building where I saw how baseball was used in art and the movies.  We also saw tributes to great players and teams.  I was moved by the area remembering the role woman played in the great American pastime during the second world war.  I love that I can take this information home and use it right away with my kids.  I can see how it will be a great tool for catching the attention of the boys as well as the girls.  I enjoyed how they use baseball to teach lessons in so many areas such as math and geography.  I think it will be a fun way to teach the different subject areas.

After leaving the Baseball Hall of Fame and having some lunch in Cooperstown, we went to the Fenimore Art museum.  The museum had some really great exhibits that made you stop and think about history, both long ago and more recent.  I enjoyed the Bodies, Bustles, and Lace exhibit with all the fashion pieces.  The Magnum Collection made me stop and think about how some history is not that far in the past and yet it plays a huge role in our every day life.  As I looked at some of the pictures in this collection I wondered if at the time some were taken the people in them or the people taking them knew how important they would become.  I want my kids to understand that their actions will all become history.  Some of that history will never be remembered but some might make a big enough impact that it will always be remembered.

The last stop of our day was at the Farmer’s Museum.  It was a town that was set up and run like a town in the early and mid 1800’s would have.  It was different than most living history museums I have ever been to because not only do they dress the part and work the part, but they run the entire town like it would have run in the 1800’s.  Everything that is made or grown there is sold or used there.  The people in each building are very knowledgable and will discuss what they are doing and answer any questions you might have.  I wish we had had more time to explore this town and really get into the feeling of stepping back in time.  

One of the experiences I can’t wait to share with my kids is the excitement we all felt as we were told we would be allowed to ride the carousal they have for the county fair experience!  When the guide told us we would all get a chance to ride, the rush of energy was contagious as everyone pushed on looking for the best place to ride.  Giggles echoed through the tent as we all clamoured onto a squirrel, horse, goose, or boat for a ride that would transport us back to childhood.  I think it is important to share experiences like this with the kids so they can see that even adults still like to have fun.  The carousel was put there in 2005 and was put together showing the state history of New York by over 1,000 volunteers.  It was very neat to see the paintings around the inside as you rode around and around the wonderful piece of history.

Empire State Carousel

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