It’s that time of year again when school starts up for children around the country, including the estimated 1.5 million homeschool students that not only get their first glimpses of their curriculum and homework assignments, but to plan field trips that bring their studies to life.
Gettysburg and the surrounding countryside is an amazing outdoor classroom. With the iconic Civil War battlefield, hands-on museums and tours, as well as a unique farming community, homeschool field trips to the region are an amazing way to learn about a variety of subjects.
As always, it’s hard to narrow down our favorites, but we’ve selected just a few of our top homeschool field trip stops for the upcoming school year.
Gettysburg National Military Park
This 6,000-acre outdoor museum provides unlimited learning opportunities in history, nature, math and science. With a visit to the Gettysburg battlefield, you can learn not only about army strategies and leadership decisions, but ballistics, wildlife and the people who lived on these farms that found themselves in the middle of the largest battle to occur in North America. If you visit during the spring, summer and fall seasons, you may just bump into a free guided ranger walk or living history encampment.
Living History Encampments
Yes, the battlefield does have living history encampments – but likewise, museums such as the Gettysburg Heritage Center, Rupp House, Spangler Farm and Seminary Ridge Museum each feature encampments with Union, Confederate and civilian historians each looking to bring history to life through weapons demonstrations, cooking presentations, and engaging with visitors throughout the day.
Eisenhower National Historic Site
Let’s jump ahead about 100 years to the Eisenhower administration. Ike and his wife, Mamie, never having owned a home throughout their marriage, decided to plant roots in Gettysburg on a farm near the famous Civil War battlefield. Today, the Eisenhower National Historic Site is open as a museum and farm open to the public to not only learn about the 34th President, but to catch a humble glimpse of a bygone era of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Historic Round Barn
Today, the Historic Round Barn stands as a unique landmark that has become a stop along the western edge of Adams County, Pa., but a little over 100 years ago, this structure was an architectural marvel. Students can learn about this then-innovative approach to farming as well as enjoying the on-site petting zoo and farm market with fresh fruits, vegetables, jellies and salsas.
There are a number of ways to tour the Gettysburg battlefield, but InSite Gettysburg’s iPad tour is something that homeschool families have been using for years to get a great narration of the battle as well as inside stories on soldiers, civilians and through an augmented reality feature, a realistic look at 1863’s epic event. Rent the iPad at the Gettysburg Heritage Center for up to five hours and let the students guide the family around the town and battlefield.
Downtown Walking Tour
In the last few years, more and more visitors are realizing that the Battle of Gettysburg affected more than the 170,000 soldiers who showed up in Gettysburg to wage this battle. The citizens of Gettysburg, at the time only 2,400 of them, faced a fearful three days and a gruesome aftermath. Downtown walking tours, both guided and self-guided provide glimpses into the lives of local townspeople, their families and their homes as armies took over the town. Tours help students understand that this time in history was about people as much as it was about armies and artillery.
Historic Church Walking Tour
Like many public buildings in Gettysburg, churches were often used as field hospitals for wounded soldiers. In addition, many of the churches in Gettysburg date back hundreds of years and have been gathering spots or places of worship for people like President Lincoln and President Eisenhower. The Historic Church Walking Tours, talking place on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer months, provides an inside look of these historic and spiritual places.
Steam Into History
All aboard! There’s nothing quite like a train ride to bring students close to history – and not just Civil War history. Steam Into History in nearby New Freedom, Pa., takes learning out on the rails and often features presentations and themed rides throughout the spring, summer and fall months. It’s also a great way to learn about the history of the railroad and Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg.
There are more ways to get homeschool students out and about learning about the famous Civil War battle, U.S. presidents, farming heritage and the people of our past that helped shape our nation.
For a complete list of experiences in and around Gettysburg, visit www.DestinationGettysburg.com.