The Valley Forge Summer of the American Battlefield Trust

ABT TI crowdI’m in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, for a few days, for the American Battlefield Trust’s Teachers Institute. Nearly 200 teachers have come here from all across the country, from as far as Huntington Beach, California, and Sturgis, South Dakota. I’ve chatted with teachers from Texas and Arkansas and Oregon, and of course, the eastern states are well represented. In all, teachers from twenty-three states have come here to suburban Philadelphia. 

“We’ve never had anyone come from Montana,” Kris White jokes from the stage as he welcomes the group. Kris, ECW’s co-founder, is the education manager for the Trust and the organizer of the Teachers Institute. He’s spent the last two days holed up in a first-floor conference room, stuffing goodie bags, double-checking A/V, alphabetizing nametags and lanyards, and doing all the “chief cook and bottlewasher” tasks that need tended to.

Over the next four days, attendees will listen to lectures, attend workshops, and tour historic sites. Kris will set the table today with “The American Way of War,” and Garry Adelman, the Trust’s education director, will offer his “Eastern Theater Photo Extravaganza.” Bus tours will go to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg and the Gettysburg battlefield, to Independence National Park and the Museum of the American Revolution.

It’s exciting to be in a room packed full of people who are not only interested in history but who have a passion for sharing it. Being a public school teacher is no easy task these days, and yet these people on the front lines carry the flame. It’s summer. They don’t have to be here—it’s summer vacation—but they’ve come because they think history is cool and they love what they do.

I’m please to say ECW will be well represented this weekend. Aside from Kris, Daniel T. Davis now works in the Trust’s education department. He’ll be leading the tour of Valley Forge National Park on Sunday. Phill Greenwalt, co-founder of our sister site Emerging Revolutionary War, will present on George Washington, inviting attendees to “Rethink the Marble Man.” Dan Welch will offer a workshop on the history of Philadelphia’s music scene (I’ve had Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” stuck in my head since driving into town yesterday, so maybe Dan can help with that.) Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll embrace the “third rail” and talk about bringing Civil War controversies into the classroom as a way to use current events to talk about history and memory.

Since I’m here, and since there’s some cool stuff going on, I’m going to offer some blog posts. There’s a lot of running around to do, so I’ll post as I’m able (no promises about a set schedule!). I look forward to sharing!

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