The Palmer High School Civil War trip is an educational program
that immerses students into the study of one of the most significant
events in our nations short history. The trip is led by Mr. Daniel Gorman,
a history teacher who has taught at Palmer High School for 27 years.
He designed the trip and has had over 250 students, from Palmer High
School and other Matanuska-Susitna Borough schools, participate in the
program over the last 15 years.
The trip covers the Eastern campaign of the Civil War and takes part over
the span of sixteen days. Generally the trip starts in the state of Virginia,
with a stay in Fredericksburg and a study of the battles surrounding the
town and the Rappahannock River. The program then moves south to
the capital of Virginia, Richmond. The area surrounding Richmond, as
well as Petersburg, are covered in depth over our four day stay. In addition,
the program steps further back in history with a visit to St. John's Church,
where the "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech was made by Patrick
Henry in 1775.
For the next four days of the program, the group gets a chance to step into
additional studies of the history of the United States with a visit to
Washington D.C. The program centers around visits to the National Museum
of American History (as well as the other Smithsonian museums), Arlington
National Cemetery, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the
Library of Congress, Supreme Court, and the Capitol Building. A highlight
of the visit is an evening spent at the historic Ford's Theatre, where we see
plays such as Shenandoah, Hello Dolly, or 1776. Upon leaving D.C. the group
takes a tour of the memorials, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial,
World War II Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, etc.
The program travels next to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, to study the
beginnings of the Civil War and John Brown's Raid. Harper's Ferry also gives
students a chance to learn about the start of the Lewis & Clark expedition.
The students always enjoy a chance to roam around the old town and hike
the trails to Jefferson's Rock. It's a beautiful location set at the meeting
of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.
The program makes a long trek to the next destination, but makes two key
stops along the way. First a stop at the battlefield in Antietam, Maryland.
This battlefield is one of the most memorable of the trip with sites such as the
Dunker Church and Burnside's Bridge. In the afternoon the program pays
a visit to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This
museum is a favorite of students, both because of it's exhibits, but also because
of it's hands-on artificial displays where students can touch and try on replicas
of Civil War items.
The last portion of the program is a study of historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Students walk throughout the battlefields and township of Gettysburg to
experience and study the events that took place in 1863. In recent years. the
National Park Service has built a new visitors facility for the park, which has
many great features. One feature is the cyclorama painting (360 degree
painting) that was completed in 1883 and depicts the battle of Pickett's Charge.
This feature along with a narrated film provide an exciting start to the
exploration of the battlefields in Gettysburg.
Throughout the trip students are encouraged to take pictures and complete
journal entries into their trip journals in order to process and reflect on their
experiences and studies. Students wishing to participate in future trips should
contact Mr. Gorman at Palmer High School in room 246 or at his MSBSD
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