We recently spent a weekend at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, PA. Let’s just say I have a little bit of the “history bug” and my husband is kind enough to humor me. One of the highlights of our trip was hiring a “Licensed Battlefield Guide” who drove us around and gave us a private tour of Gettysburg. Having met several licensed guides during our visit, I asked Chris what made him want to move to Gettysburg and become one. He told me that his interest in the Civil War started as a young boy and grew from there, especially as he found his own connections to the war such as ancestors who fought.
The entrance to the Gettysburg National Military Park & Visitor Center
When I talk to people about their growing up years, it seems they either loved learning about history or hated it. Many people remember history lessons in school being just shy or torture- reading about events long in the past and having to memorize what seemed like infinite dates.
I was fortunate because I could memorize and recall dates and details easily when it came to test time. More so, my parents understood early on that I was a hands-on learner. We often took family outings to museums and parks, sat through historic reenactments, and went home with historic toys or books from museum gift shops which reinforced what we learned. I was also part of the first gifted program started in our school district. We went on many school trips and had many guest presenters come to talk to us. These activities expanded my interest in learning to the point today where you will still see me picking up a book in a museum gift shop to deeper understand a historic site or event.
So as we experienced Gettysburg National Military Park and its beautiful new museum (opened in 2008 and a huge improvement over the museum I visited 20 years ago), I started to look around me to see who in the next generation might be contenders for catching the “history bug.” It was a very busy weekend at the park, so me saw many examples of harried parents hoping to goodness their children would remember something of their experience as the kids leaped around on the rocks of Devil’s Den, or ran through the museum at top speed. But amongst the crowds I started to see who I was looking for.
Typical Confederate uniform and gear, Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center (photo by https://travel50stateswithkids.com/)
I stood in front of a case comparing Union and Confederate uniforms and the supplies soldiers typically carried on their marches when a young boy of eight or ten plunked down on the floor next to me, put both hands on the glass and stared intently into the display. Some of the artifacts and signage were conveniently at his level. He looked mesmerized and I could see his mind ticking away. I wondered what he was pondering…
Typical Union uniform and gear, Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center (photo by https://travel50stateswithkids.com/)
A little while later we happened upon a father and daughter. The little girl was in that same age range- eight or ten. She and her father were conversing about something they saw in the display case. She then held up a booklet, leaned it against the glass and intently filled in her answer. They were working together on her Junior Ranger program book, a wonderful educational opportunity for kids available at over 200 National Park sites. When you arrive at one of these sites you can ask for a Junior Ranger booklet at the information booth, follow the directions for the activities in the booklet, then review your answers with a Park Ranger. When completed, the child then earns a patch and certificate commemorating their visit. Additional Junior Ranger learning opportunities are available online at the National Park Service site.
The Gettysburg National Military Park Junior Ranger Program is free for kids to participate in.
In seeing this father and daughter learning together, all I could think was, WOW! Some day when she’s an adult she’s going to turn to her dad and say, “Remember the time we went to Gettysburg and you helped me fill in my Junior Ranger book?” Those are the sorts of memories that last a lifetime and make learning fun. When kids learn that history happened and is happening all around them, it makes it that much more interesting to learn, retain and pass on to another generation.
Planning a trip to Gettysburg or any other battlefield or museum this Summer? Remember to go through the ShopforMuseums.com shopping portal to book your hotel, airfare and/or car rental. We have a whole easy to use Travel Planning section). A percentage of your purchase amount will be donated to museum or related organization of your choice for free! Thanks for helping out and happy adventuring!