Blog: May 2009

Thursday, May 14

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The UrbanTrekkers took spring break 2009 to become history detectives, as they explored civil war battlefields from Gettysburg, PA to New Market, VA.

We began the week with a visit to Gettysburg College, where we spoke with college admissions staff, and then spent the afternoon exploring the Gettysburg battlefield.

We were fortunate to have our Trekker friend, Bob Lehman, or ‘Bobby’ as the Trekkers called him, share his knowledge of the battlefield and his experiences as an undergrad at Gettysburg College. Our first two nights were spend at the Harper’s Ferry Hostel, which is a great location to explore the story of John Brown the abolitionist, and his raid on the munitions armory in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

We spent Tuesday whitewater rafting on and in the frigid Shenandoah River. It was an awesome outdoor adventure. We also visited Antietam battlefield in Maryland, which was the bloodiest single day of battle in American history, and historic downtown Harpers Ferry.

From there we headed south into Virginia and the beautiful Shenandoah valley, visiting the New Market Battlefield, where cadets from the Virginia Military Institute defeated the Union troops led by Major General Franz Sigel. That afternoon we toured Luray Caverns, outside of Harrisonburg Virginia.
We were hosted by our good friend, Katherine Johnson, from Grace Covenant Church in Harrisonburg, who graciously housed us at her parents home for three nights, as we toured the valley.

We were able to hike the Blue Ridge Mountains along a small portion of the Appalachian Trail, take a ten mile bicycling loop through an old order Mennonite farming community, visit a Mennonite dairy and poultry farm, where we milked cows, chased chickens, and jumped into the feed pile from the barn rafters. We further explored history by going to Charlottesville, Virginia and Monticello, the family home of Thomas Jefferson. As detectives, we looked at some of Jefferson’s writings and saw the contradictions in his own life, with his relationship to the issue of slavery, as well as his affair with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves, who bore a number of his children.

Trips like this allow us to include all the elements of an UrbanTrekker expedition, and make it something special. It’s the travel, the learning, and the adventure, but most important of all, the relationships that are created and strengthened as our students explore the world beyond the streets of Camden that make them UrbanTrekkers.

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