Student story: Belleville East students march through Gettysburg, Pa.

Belleville EastNovember 19, 2013 

On Nov.7-10, Belleville East High School teachers, Mrs. Rebekah McGarrity and Mrs. Katie Hoerner, with Instruction Technologist Mr. Joseph Nesbit, joined students in an 800-mile learning experience. Fifty junior students from American Studies, a team-taught class that combines history and English, traveled to Gettysburg, Pa., as part of their study of the Civil War. Prior to the trip, the class had been learning about various battles from Hoerner and studying the Gettysburg novel Killer Angels by Michael Shaara with McGarrity. In this novel, Shaara humanizes the officers in the war, and the trip made the experiences even more real to students.

Upon arrival, students visited the museum and the Cyclorama, a room filled with a painting of Pickett’s Charge. They then toured the battlefield where they explored Pickett's charge, Devil’s Den, and Little Round Top.

“I think that from studying the Civil War and reading Killer Angels, it makes history come alive. Students can see the places they read about and clearly understand the impact of these particular events," said McGarrity.

The evening of Nov. 8 consisted of a buffet dinner followed by an Abraham Lincoln impersonator that explained the events leading to the abolition of slavery. “His speech was like a review for us since we had already studied all of it in class,” said Brianna Ward.

On day two, students traveled to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, into the mountains to better understand the location of John Brown’s raids and the importance of geography in the war.

Outside of the history, students took advantage of the opportunity to become closer with their classmates. “Exploring the history of the town with my classmates made the experience better because we were able to learn from each other- Some people knew more facts than others so sharing the information helped all of us.” said student Katherine Effinger. The American Studies class has over 50 students so bonding with every classmate is not an easy task. Mrs. McGarrity said one of the reasons she wanted to do the trip was “it would bring the class together quickly through a common experience.”

After a long day of bonding at Harper’s Ferry, students went back to the town of Gettysburg to walk through the cemetery. Student Joshua Muckensturm read the Gettysburg Address to the group in the same location that Abraham Lincoln gave the speech 150 years ago.

The next day, Nov. 10, students boarded a bus to go home. The bus driver suggested stopping at the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania, which students and teachers instantly agreed to. Many students admitted being moved by the memorial, which included the names of the citizens who lost their lives in the crash.

Students arrived back home on Sunday, Nov. 10. “The Gettysburg trip is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. To able to experience history personally is something that I am very grateful to have been able to experience. It brought the Civil War to life for me," said student Gillian Garland.

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