BVT: Civil War Reenactment Creates Integrated Learning Opportunities


Civil War Reenactor Russel Marchand shows the freshmen class a piece of hardtack, a food staple during the Civil War, during the recent Civil War presentation at Blackstone Valley Tech.

The students enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at BVT never thought they’d be learning about the Civil War as a part of their shop curriculum. Neither did the Health Services students, or the students in English and Art classes. Nevertheless, the instructors throughout the building used the Civil War Reenactment held at Daniels Farmstead as an opportunity to integrate the Civil War into seemingly unrelated subjects. 

The fusion of history into different programs allowed students to understand the complexities and multifaceted nature of the Civil War.

The Culinary Arts program used the reenactment as a springboard to teach students about the availability and quality of food during the Civil War period. The students created a beef stew using ingredients and techniques from the era. The stew used substitutions when necessary, but the final version gave students and guests an idea of what soldiers were eating while serving in the war.

The history lesson continued to transcend the history department when students in the Health Services program discovered the many ways modern medicine differs from Civil War era medicine. Through an in-class project, students traced the path medicine followed through the Civil War to evolve into what they are learning about today by researching the medical care and treatment of wounded and sick soldiers fighting the war.

“The students were astounded at the crude instruments and the simple medications used. The class research showed students how the Civil War aided in the evolvement of medical care,” said Health Services Instructor Judith Lavallee.

The vocational programs were not the only ones integrating social studies into their curriculum by using the event to bring a more detailed understanding of the time period. The English and Art program teamed up to create a contest for students to display their new knowledge of the Civil war after attending the reenactment. Students were encouraged to create a short story, poem, comic strip, or other piece of art based on the Civil War reenactment. Students were able to be take in the sights and sounds of the event, couple them with their knowledge of the time period from their social studies classes, and create something new.

The students’ knowledge of the Civil War was further developed by the social studies department’s interactive presentation where two reenactors, dressed in Union soldier uniforms, answered student’s questions about the Civil War and the process of planning and executing a reenactment of one of the most turbulent times in American history. The reenactors gave detailed answers to students’ questions about everything from women’s role in the war to the ways soldiers set up their base camps.

“Our multifaceted Civil War reenactment project, established in partnership with Daniels Farmstead, served as a recipe for active and applied learning,” said Dr. Michael F. Fitzpatrick, Superintendent-Director of Blackstone Valley Tech. “The venture was a biology lesson blended inside a history lesson, spiced with a culinary arts lesson, incorporated within a creative writing lesson, and embedded within a health services field hospital setting.”

The integrated history lessons provided by the Civil War reenactment transcended the social studies department and created a school-wide learning initiative. The reenactment, which was well attended by students, teachers, and the general public alike, allowed history to take center stage and inspired students to see how history is involved in every facet of education.

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