Summer in the Parks

A MiddleWeb Resource Roundup

Most of us live within driving distance of one or more national parks. The National Park Service can help educators across content areas enrich their lessons by bringing some direct summer experience back to the classroom. And if you don’t have time to get face-to-face with these preserved and honored pieces of America, Park Service web pages often describe the history, culture or geology underlying the parks.

America on a Grand Scale

Learn about educational opportunities for all ages provided at major parks from the Park Service’s Institutes and Field School page. Most of these parks are out west. Another western park, on a smaller scale, is Manzanar National Historic Site. You can visit to see and hear about the US internment of Japanese Americans at the Manzanar War Relocation Center near Los Angeles, which began in 1942.

The Civil War, 150 Years Later

Moving east, educators can observe the Civil War Sesquicentennial. In 2012, national parks and battlefields are hosting events to commemorate 1862 battles. On July 7 the Fort Donelson Battlefield in northern Tennessee will host “Ulysses Grant,” 150 years after his previous visit, to talk about the Union’s February 1862 win over rebel forces. Like other Park Service properties, Fort Donelson will also reach beyond history in its programming with a “Water Education for Teachers” workshop on June 12. Almost three hours to the south, the Park Service will remember the fighting around Shiloh with June encampments and other events.

The 1862 Peninsular Campaign that centered around the Confederate capital is being commemorated by the Richmond National Battlefield Park through June. The Park Service provides a useful timeline of the many battles that made up the campaign. The Manassas National Battlefield Park will offer a week of events in late August to remember the 2nd Battle of Bull Run. Learn about Robert E. Lee’s September 1862 thrust into Maryland, which led to the savage Battle of Antietam in the area now known as the Antietam National Battlefield. Events crowd the park’s 2012 calendar, including an August 11 and 12 program, Before the Storm, offering interaction with historical interpreters who will represent the soldiers and townspeople living nearby in the days before the battle.

The War of 1812: The British were coming, again

Of course, this year also marks the 200th centennial of the War of 1812. The battles of the war’s first year centered in the north and mid-west. For a look at the Park Service sites commemorating those events, visit this site.

A National Landmark Recalls a Heroine

To reach beyond the history of war in the United States, Americans can celebrate the 150th birthday of an outstanding journalist who faced danger and discrimination to work for African American and women’s rights. The Park Service lists the Chicago home of Ida B. Wells-Barnett as a National Historic Landmark. The house is a private residence, but her hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi, and the Ida B. Wells Museum will host a birthday festival in mid-July.

We know that quite a few history teachers trek to memorable locales during the summer, in search of high-interest stories to share with students. The National Park Service provides a quick search page to help you find national parks and historical sites close to you or your vacation destinations. And if you travel up or down the nation’s longest and narrowest national park (the Blue Ridge Parkway) and find yourself at Milepost 334, give John at MiddleWeb a call and he’ll have a cup of coffee with you!

Susan Curtis

Susan Curtis is co-editor of In a long career, she has taught middle grades students, worked in human services, edited a variety of publications and wrangled the reference desk in libraries.

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