Led by Mr. Berner, history teacher extraordinaire, and Dr. Beeghley, the school’s new instructional technology coordinator and Civil War buff, the junior and senior classes took a field trip to the Gettysburg Battlefield to learn more about what happened there during the Civil War. Most of us either are taking or have taken an American history course as part of the Upper School curriculum, so it was interesting to get up close to where that history actually happened.
Dr. Beeghley runs a website dedicated to Civil War history, and he was able to reel off stories at will. As we started our day on top of Little Round Top, he set the scene for the battle: Confederate troops regrouped at Gettysburg because it had 12 roads leading to it and Union troops followed them. The fighting started July 1, 1863, and the second day of battle was especially fierce. The Confederates launched an attack on the relatively lightly guarded Union position on Little Round Top. Dr. Beeghley explained that if the Confederates had won the skirmish, their cannons would have had a direct shot at Union headquarters from the hill, potentially altering the outcome of the battle. He waxed poetic on the bravery of the men who fought there, tales of soldiers fighting to their last breath and refusing to run. The most amazing thing was that he could recall all of these stories, in minute detail, off the top of his head.
It was only down to a serendipitous logistical problem that Dr. Beeghley even made the trip that day. He was just filling in for our intended chaperone, and ended up animating the history for us in ways none had imagined when we set out that morning.
Country Day’s embrace of technology continued during the field trip. The week before, students were given access to a folder of pictures taken at the Battle of Gettysburg. Using Google Drive and school-provided iPads, everyone was able to have a whole gallery of 19th-century images to enrich their experience at the battlefield. The technology helped us to see not just a bunch of rocks with explanatory placards; the pictures allowed us to visualize the carnage and travail those rocks bore witness to.
This year’s junior and senior field trip to the Gettysburg battlefield was not your average lecture. Instead, the battlefield came to life thanks to the knowledgeable Dr. Beeghley and the portable libraries on our iPads.