Ford's Theatre Civil War Washington attendees stand on the ground in front of the white house with peaked eaves known as President's Lincoln's Cottage
Civil War Washington participants visit Lincoln’s Cottage. Ford’s Theatre photo.

A Teacher Fellow Week Recap

4 min read

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ford’s Theatre Education recently concluded its first of four summer teacher programs. In the following post, Education Programs Coordinator Alexandria Wood shares some of her favorite moments from the first session with our Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Civil War Washington Teacher Fellows.

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Civil War Washington Teacher Fellows is a professional development program for teachers from both the Washington, D.C., area and the nation. Focusing on place-based learning and using primary sources, we explore four historic sites and neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., and immerse ourselves in the world of the burgeoning capitol during one of (if not the) most tumultuous and critical periods in our nation’s history. Teacher Fellows are amazed at how much rich history is quite literally underfoot and all around us on streets and in buildings that are still standing today. We are thrilled when Teacher Fellows return to their classrooms near and far with new enthusiasm for teaching the Civil War and exploring their own local history through historic places.

Students may be delighted to learn that even teachers are required to do an assessment test, of sorts. To begin the week, each Teacher Fellow made a Civil War Timeline. Each person haf an event, and they  lined up in the correct chronological order.

On our first site visit of the week, teachers explored Civil War Georgetown, beginning at Tudor Place Historic House and Garden. Inhabited by the same family for 178 years, Tudor Place tells the story of the Peter family, descendents of George Washington’s wife, Martha, and relatives through marriage of Robert E. Lee, and the enslaved people who worked on their property.

Next, Fellows received notes to try their hands at interpreting Morse Code. During the Civil War, important military messages were sent through Telegraph Lines using Morse Code. The Telegraph was one of the latest and most important technological advances to assist communication during the Civil War.

Next stop: Oak Hill Cemetery. Lincoln’s son, Willie, was initially buried in this cemetery before his body was exhumed and returned, with his father’s body, to Springfield, IL. Oak Hill Cemetery is beautiful and peaceful, with many trees and wandering paths. Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, is also buried here.

Back at Tudor Place, Teacher Fellows worked together to examine historic objects.

The next day we went to Frederick Douglass’s Washington, D.C., home, Cedar Hill. It was, in fact, quite a hill!

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass are known to have met multiple times at the White House. There, Douglass encouraged the president to see the war as a chance to eliminate slavery and transform the country into a more perfect nation. It is believed that Douglass’ influence on such issues was crucial to the evolution of Lincoln’s thinking. National Park Service Ranger Nate Johnson spoke to the Teacher Fellows about Douglass’s oratory.

On to President Lincoln’s Cottage, a house full of ideas.

Abraham Lincoln and his family lived at the Old Soldiers Home (today known as President Lincoln’s Cottage) at various times during his presidency, most notably for 13 months from 1862-1864. Inside President Lincoln’s Cottage we learned how Lincoln would leave scraps of paper all over the house. Those scribbled notes would one day become the Emancipation Proclamation, which he wrote at the Cottage.

Outside some of us paused for a quick photo-op with the president.

Next, we went to Fort Stevens, just up Georgia Avenue, and met Ranger Mark Maloy to learn about the battle Lincoln observed there in July 1864, and see where Lincoln actually came under enemy fire. Ranger Mark performs third-person interpretation as a Union Artillery soldier. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole week. Ranger Mark has the Teacher Fellows form ranks and fix bayonets!

There were 68 forts built to surround and defend Washington during the Civil War; all were earthen works. Off in the distance, the teachers are gathering around the stone marking the place where Lincoln came under fire. An anxious soldier is claimed to have cried out, “Get down, you damn fool!”

Next we traveled to the first national cemetery, next to Lincoln’s Cottage. While living at the Cottage, Lincoln would have watched up to 40 burials at the cemetery each week. Even at the place Lincoln felt most peaceful in Washington, he could not escape the heavy burden of the Civil War.

The Fourth day of the full week with our Teacher Fellows focuses on Ford’s Theatre. Associate Director for Museum Education Jake Flack showed the fellows an 1860s photograph of the theatre. While so much has changed over the last 150 years, some things have hardly changed at all.

Lastly, teachers engaged in a “close reading,” an intense examination of primary sources related to the United States Colored Troops. Here they are encouraged to observe, question and reflect.

Our Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Civil War Washington Teacher Fellows weeks are work weeks that feel like play. We can hardly wait for Session Two (July 19-24, 2015) later this month! Follow along with the fun on Twitter by looking for our hashtags: #TeachCivilWar and #FordsEdu.

Alexandria Wood is the Education Programs Coordinator at Ford’s Theatre. Prior to joining the Education Department, she worked as a stage manager, event manager and child wrangler at Ford’s and other D.C.- area theatres. She holds a B.S. in Theatre from Skidmore College.

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Alexandria Wood is the Education Programs Coordinator at Ford’s Theatre.

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