Adapting and Learning

Week 2 of the Pre-Collegiate Program presented several challenges for both students and staff.  Students – especially those in the “Civil War” course – traveled farther than they ever imagined we would take them.  And a rainy day forced students in the “Colonial” course to rearrange two day whole days, combining two trips into one.  When it was all said and done, the students adapted well and still brought their A-games to every discussion.  Here are some of the highlights from Week 2…

Frontier Culture Museum

“Civil War” students woke up early on Monday morning to drive out to Staunton, VA, home of the Frontier Culture Museum.  This sprawling outdoor museum uses architecture to exhibit a number of diverse cultures that collided on the East Coast of early America.  Of greatest interest to “Civil War” students were the examples of rural American farms in the 1820s and 1850s.  These examples of middling farms are in stark contrast to the grand estates and plantations of wealthy landowners, like Thomas Jefferson, whose home the students visited last week.  Nevertheless, slavery was still present, and “Civil War” students were asked to compare the two types of lifestyles.  They were also asked to consider how notions of race were created and reinforced in backcountry areas where the elite would seldom be found.

Rosewell and Christ Church

The “Colonial” group also had the first of their full-day field trips this week.  On Tuesday, they traveled across the York River to see Historic Christ Church in Lancaster County.  Here, they explored the powerful role of religion in society and got a lesson on brick architecture.  After a picnic lunch, they traveled a short distance to Gloucester to tour the ruins of Rosewell Plantation.  These stunning ruins of one of the grandest mansions ever built in the colonies are always a favorite of NIAHD students.  The mansion was ravaged by fire in 1916 but its skeleton remains still provide a powerful vision of what money and influence could accomplish.

An Affair of Honor

After driving over 300 miles on Monday, the “Civil War” group left the vans in the parking lot and stayed close to home on Tuesday.  They started with a short walk to the Sunken Gardens, part of W&M’s historic campus.  Here they participated in a most “honorable” Southern tradition: dueling.  Using scripts and water shooters, the students got to see how—and why—a challenge could be initiated and analyze the possible outcomes.  Afterwards, the students walked over to the Sir Christopher Wren Building for a tour of W&M’s most iconic structure.  This academic building has survived 300 years of fire, war, rebellion, and an ever-growing, ever-changing, restless student body.

Westover Plantation and Shirley Plantation

The “Colonial” group was scheduled and ready to visit Westover Plantation on Thursday morning, but heavy rain and rumbling thunderstorms forced everyone to reconsider their plans.  Unlike most of our plantation visits, the student’s visit this site not to tour the interior of the main house, but to discuss the importance of location and landscape.  As a result of all the outdoor activity, their Thursday trip was postponed to Friday and combined with a visit to Shirley Plantation, the original 18th-century home of Elizabeth Hill and John Carter, eldest son of Robert “King” Carter, and one of the oldest standing plantation buildings in Virginia.


Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 10:54 am Comments (0)