Another Trip Through the Time Capusule

This past April, my parents and I visited the National Museum of African America History and Culture in Washington, D.C. with some of my colleagues. It was a wonderful experience to share with my parents, especially my father who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, is a huge sports fan, loves music and history.

My mom as we were about to begin our journey.

There are three history galleries that go in chronological order. As you come off the “time capsule” you are transported back to the 1400s, to the sound of waves, to another place. Here is where your journey begins. The first stop is Slavery and Freedom, the 1400s – 1877. Next, is Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876 – 1968. Last, is A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond.

During our short visit in April, we only saw the first floor and half of the second floor. It was decided then that we would go back at some point to see the rest of it and we did. In November, my parents and I traveled back to Washington, D.C. for another trip through the time capsule.

This time, our first stop was the Emmett Till memorial. Even though I know the story, I was still overcome with emotion as I looked at his casket and read the quote by his mother, I have read my times before. We then continued through the floors, seeing exhibits we missed the first time and spending more time looking at the ones we did see.

A highlight for me was seeing artifacts donated by Colonel Charles McGee. Colonel McGee was one of the Tuskegee Airmen and an officer in the United States Air Force and holds a record of 409 combat missions flown in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 2003, I had the honor of meeting Colonel McGee at a presentation he gave.


There is so much to see, read and listen to. Everything grabs your attention. One exhibit causes you to pause and reflect. While you look at the picture, you stop and take in the moment. Others cause you to smile and laugh. Then, as you are focused on reading, you hear a small child’s voice behind you, asking questions with a huge smile on his face, as he recognizes a picture of President Obama. This place really is captivating.









Civil War Map

Visuals are a great way to help students make connections. To help students better understand the Civil War and secession of the Southern states, I created a large visual of the unions states, confederate states, border states, and territories. 

Using the Electoral College Map I created at the beginning of the school year as a template, I re-traced the southern states in grey, the border states in yellow, and used brown paper to cover the various territories that existed in the west. I already had the union states completed because they were the blue states from the electoral college map.
It’s the perfect reference and adds some color to the wall! 


For a guide about how to create this map, click here.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Teaching history in South Jersey is great for the simple fact of its location. We are so close to Philadelphia, New York, and even Washington D.C. In addition, New Jersey has its own rich history being one of the original 13 colonies. It was the site of many battles during the American Revolution and has many historical sites preserved from local taverns that were built in colonial times to houses that were station along the Underground Railroad.


I am always looking for ways to “bring history to life” and many historical sites hold reenactments.  A few years ago, before I was teaching, my husband and I went to the reenactment of Washington crossing the Delaware at Washington Crossing State Park. The park has many events all year but the reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware River is tradition. Even though the reenactment is during the day and it was a lot warmer the year I went, it was still exceptional to see. I knew I wanted to share this experience with my future students. My visit to the reenactment, complete with my pictures, is part of my lesson.

Pre-crossing ceremony.
The first boat crosses from PA to NJ.
The boat with Washington crosses.


During the lesson, we also discuss the importance of the Delaware River to the history of Philadelphia and Camden and how it is still vital to the City of Camden today.


The Delaware River divides Camden and Philadelphia and the Camden Waterfront has many attractions including the Battleship New Jersey. The city my students call home is also home to the U.S. Navy’s most decorated battleship. Teaching the Battle of Trenton offers more than simply the battle. In my class, students first examine a map of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and trace the river from Camden to Trenton.  They locate where George Washington and his army were camped on the Pennsylvania side, where they crossed, then follow the path they marched and locate the site of the battle. Imagine doing all that, in the winter of 1776. Then, the battle! I feel that when students learn this particular battle, it’s almost too good to be true.


First, there is something daring about doing this on Christmas. During World War I, soldiers had a Christmas Day truce, yet Washington was on the move. Next, the frozen water and moonless night both perfect for his plan. The element of surprise was critical to victory and the Hessians probably never expected the attack. The irony of the German general receiving a note written in English warning him about the attack but he couldn’t read English.  The note was later read to him as he was dying. Finally, there is the significance of winning the Battle of Trenton because of what it meant for Washington and his soldiers.  After losing many battles, Washington was able to turn the war in their favor.


When students see the pictures from the crossing reenactment, connect the Delaware River to their city, and feel the emotions of defeat and victory that Washington and his men may have felt, we have brought history to life.  When we study history, we see it from a limited perspective. There are certain historical figures that are revered and others who are notorious.  Washington had faults like any human, but he is still regarded as one of the best presidents.  The painting by Emanuel Leutze in 1851 reflects how art and culture shaped Washington into an iconic figure. It is also a great primary and secondary source to help students see how the crossing is depicted and here is how it actually happened.


At the end of my first year of teaching, the art teacher assigned a final project where students had to create a mural for a “customer”. Each teacher was a customer. The two students assigned to me were in my US History I class that semester. They asked me what I wanted them to paint. I asked them what was their favorite thing from the class or what they thought was the most interesting. “Washington crossing the Delaware”, they replied.  I told them it was ambitious but I loved it. They worked with the art teacher to create their own painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. When I look at it, I am reminded of my first year teaching.


Army vs. Navy, 2016

College football has some great rivals and one of the best is Army vs.  Navy. Today, the Black Knights of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point faced off against the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy for the 117th time. Army beat Navy for the first time since 2001 ending a 14 year winning streak for Navy.

There is a lot of tradition steeped into these games and a lot of history.  For example, at the end of the game, both teams’ alma maters are sung and both teams stand alongside together to show respect and solidarity. The winning team sings second.

But we have to talk about the uniforms for a minute – the football uniforms.

Last year, Navy wore hand painted position-by-position helmets, which represented ships in the U.S. Navy’s fleet. Army wore helmets that had a different insignia for every position group. They were cool because they showed the players will go on to represent something greater after graduation in the branch they serve.

This year, Army took it back – way back. They partnered with Nike to create some awesome uniforms that honored the 82nd Airborne division. With the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor earlier this week, the uniforms were a fitting tribute to World War II paratroopers. Everything, from the helmet to the jersey, had meaning.

For more about the historical meaning including what each patch means, click here for the official uniform website and watch the video. Until next year’s game, enjoy!