Monthly Archives: May 2014

Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student

“This project started out as me and my friends pitching ideas around for the vodcast.  When we got to choose our topic, we chose Constitutionality of Secession which we knew was going to be a challenge….  These vodcasts are more than filming in old clothes in your backyard.  These are making something for students and people to watch and learn from.  When making these vodcasts, I learned the importance of team work, and if we don’t work together, then we won’t get the job done.”

–Hensley Dwight, 7th grade, Locust Grove Middle School (LGMS), Locust Grove, VA

Hensley, her 7th grade classmates, and the 7th graders from Prospect Heights Middle School (PHMS) in Orange, VA, were all part of a yearlong service learning project created by Journey Through Hallowed Ground.  The nationally recognized, award-winning program, entitled Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student (OBF), is targeted specifically at middle school students to tell local history through their own eyes for students their own age.  Through a series of student created vodcasts (mini-movies), students pitch their ideas for a video to a panel of judges, and if their idea is selected, the students work together as a team to write, act, film, and edit their film for production, or as Hensley indicated, they filmed in “old clothes “(period dress) in their own “backyard” which in this case was the Wilderness Battlefield.

During the 2013-2014 school year, nearly 400 students from Orange County Public Schools pitched ideas and approximately 75 were fortunate to have their vodcasts selected for the OBF program in recognition of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War battle where Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee first met on the field of battle in May 1864. A third partner in the OBF project was the staff of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.   Filming was shot on location: Ellwood Manor, the Wilderness Battlefield, the banks of the Rapidan River, and various locations throughout Orange County including the grounds of Montpelier.  The vodcasts will eventually be housed in and become part of the official interpretive materials at the national park.

Filming DayWhat do other students think about their experiences? As Ellie Robinson assessed her involvement, “This project has been my life this year.  I’ll do extra work for [it] by my own choice. It has taught me so much more about the Civil War. I’ve learned about the home front and the battlefield,”  Ivy Huff proclaimed, “Out of every extra-curricular activity I have been a part of at school, this was the very best.  I loved everything about this process.”   When asked to reflect on their experience this year, many students saw the importance of what they had learned that went beyond the project.   “[It] was an experience I will never forget.  We got to work in groups, which is a skill I will have to use all throughout my life,” said Emma Browning.  “These things in our videos are dug out of primary sources.  In our case all we had was a diary. That means you have to pull the info as it is not told to you like in a textbook,” added John Ashley.

Others focused on technical skills they gained like Roxanne Akers who emphasized, “I learned a lot from this project.  I have learned how to use the filming equipment.  I feel accomplished. ”  Anna Weese-Grubb focused on the history learned when she stated, “This project …was a wonderful way to explore the Civil War more in detail. For a person who loves history, this project was pretty much the best idea ever.”  Echoing the significance of the historical experience, Bailee Miller expressed her appreciation of the soldiers, “I’ve learned that the pride we carry as a country from the courage of these men are deeper than the eye can see.”  Sierra Drew reflected, “It has taught me the hardships and problems that the soldiers faced.  They were very brave and fought for what they wanted/believed in.  It also helped me understand that it was very important to learn this because it’s what made our country like this today.  Not only did it teach me history lessons or how to make a movie but that I need to be responsible and always on task.”

Many lessons from many students—all acknowledging that the program was hard work and that learning to work in a group was essential to success.  The students emphasized the friendships they made and the fun they had learning in a way that is not the traditional classroom experience.  However, the year was not without stress.  In October the federal government shut down, and no visitation or filming could occur on National Park land during that time.  Further, the worst winter in recent memory caused shooting to be rescheduled on six different occasions.   In February the shooting schedule was so tight that film crews were shooting around snow covered ground to replicate the hot drought-ridden ground of May 1864. There were challenges, but the students and teachers persevered and were able to complete the vodcasts on time.

“It has allowed students to get outside of their multiple choice comfort level [referencing the state’s Standards of Learning assessments],” acknowledged Jennifer Conley, PHMS 7th grade history teacher.  “The students who have worked together have created a bond with each other and with me as we have weathered the storm through countless changes, roadblocks, and snow days! I am so proud of these students and their hard work.”  Likewise in spite of the challenges, LGMS 7th grade teacher Robert Stewart has a similar perspective, “The JTHG project this year has challenged both educator and student alike to convey the importance of the American Civil War to a larger audience than just the immediate classroom environment.  Students have pushed themselves and their peers to adapt and master video software technology, knowledge of local history, and form working relationships with their peers. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground experience will be the capstone for many Locust Grove Middle Schools students.”

For me at the division level, this program was “a dream come true” for us.   The year before the OBF experience, I had been collaborating with Bill Berry, the district’s director of elementary instruction, other local historians, and Leigh Mawyer of Orange County Department of Tourism to expand the way we taught local history for our students.  Every day as our students rode their buses to school, they travelled past battlefields, Presidents’ homes, and other places of historical significance which they did not know or appreciate.   We were committed to changing the way that our students saw the historically rich county in which we lived, but we did not have the “vehicle” to achieve that change.  Cate Magennis Wyatt, president of JTHG, and Jessie Aucoin, Director of Educational Programs, provided that for us through the vodcast experience.  In addition to providing our faculty and students an experience in project-based learning, JTHG supplied the costumes, cameras, computers, and editing software.  Jessie organized the shooting locations and film schedules, provided expertise in filming and editing, and held our hands during the government shutdown and snow days.

Now that we have the knowledge base, we will purchase our own equipment and will replicate the experience next year with an emphasis on another era of Orange County history.  In fact, our 7th graders who are now vodcast experts will mentor our 6th graders to create vodcasts during the 2014-15 school year.  The local history project will continue in a format that will benefit visitors and residents alike.  The beauty in what Cate and Jessie have shown us is how history should be taught–not out of a textbook or with worksheets but hands on through research with primary source documents where students own their learning and bring to life the stories of those that came before us.  By finding meaning in these stories and connecting those lessons to today’s world, our students can serve others by creating a legacy to share digitally with students their own age across the U.S.  The students and staff of Orange County schools are sincerely grateful to JTHG for this experience, or as Megan Smith enthusiastically affirmed, “Thank you for choosing us!”

Restoring a Masterpiece

As the Architect for the University of Virginia, each day I’m reminded of the privilege of working in such magnificent surroundings. The Jeffersonian Grounds, or the University’s core historic precinct, were designed by Thomas Jefferson as the embodiment of his ideas for an educated citizenry as a cornerstone of democracy. In fact, Jefferson cited the University (in his phrasing the ‘Academical Village’) as one of his proudest achievements, along with writing the Declaration of Independence and Virginia’s statute for religious freedom. He sought recognition not only for two documents fundamental to American freedom but also for the institution through which those freedoms would be preserved.

image00That’s why the Jeffersonian Grounds, with the Rotunda as the centerpiece, have been designated a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site along with Monticello. In short, Jefferson’s Academical Village is recognized as an architectural masterpiece.

This historic heart of the University of Virginia is not set aside as a museum. It is a bustling place filled with top-notch teachers, world-class researchers, and bright, striving students. In addition, it is heavily trafficked each day, attracting thousands of visitors annually. As such, it presents special preservation challenges. The needs are continuous, costly, and urgent for the 17 historic structures, 103 student rooms, and 40 acres of gardens and landscape that comprise the Jeffersonian Grounds.

In these spaces, students and faculty continue the shared pursuit of knowledge as they have for nearly 200 years. If I may be so bold to say it, the Jeffersonian Grounds are the physical and emotional core of the University of Virginia—the place where our beliefs reside, where we commit every day to the expansion of knowledge, freedom of inquiry, and open dialogue.

That’s why I and so many others are determined to accomplish a landmark program to restore, renovate, and repair Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village. The Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that this historic precinct remains a thriving academic center for both U.Va. and visiting students and faculty, as well as a vital cultural heritage site for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world.

We cannot afford to wait. Time, the elements, and constant use have taken a toll on the Jeffersonian Grounds. Marble column capitals on the Rotunda are crumbling. Cores of the Colonnades are eroding. Air conditioning units hang from Jeffersonian windows. The ranges must be sand-bagged in rainy weather. A fire nearly destroyed Hotel A, and only a chance discovery led to a $4 million emergency repair of chimneys and installation of a fire-suppression in student rooms.

The total cost of maintaining a masterpiece is high, in the many millions of dollars. Yet the opportunities are unprecedented. Restoring the Jeffersonian Grounds opens the door to new discoveries in archeology, history, landscape architecture, and conservation. We’re already making great strides:

  • Phase I of the Rotunda renovation was completed in 2013. The project included installing a new oculus and copper roof, making extensive masonry repairs, and refurbishing the window sashes and architraves. Phase II has just begun. Work to replace the marble column capitals and to provide all new building systems is part of this phase.
  • The University has contracted with award-winning landscape architect Laurie Olin, of OLIN, to create a design for the Rotunda courtyards and North Terrace. Patricia O’Donnell, principal of Heritage Landscapes LLC, led the creation of the University’s first-ever Cultural Landscape Report to document the conditions of the Lawn, gardens, and other landscapes, and guide decisions within the World Heritage site’s boundary.
  • The University is developing plans for a new interpretive center that will enhance the visitor experience, complement the University Guide tours, and provide interactive displays for rotating exhibits and tour highlights.

With our unique situation—as a living, breathing, constantly evolving institution of higher learning—comes a tremendous amount of responsibility. We have an obligation to our national heritage, the students and faculty, and to future generations. That sense of duty is what drives me each day to ensure that we’re giving the appropriate care and feeding to these nearly 200-year-old buildings and grounds. It’s what drives everyone involved in the Jeffersonian Grounds Initiative.

The restoration of the Academical Village gives the University a chance to renew its commitment to our community of learners and to educate visitors from around the world about Jefferson as the architect of American democracy and higher education.

Chesapeake Landscapes – and the Work They Inspire

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

In upstate New York, from Otsego Lake at Cooperstown to the rolling hills and farmlands near Corning and Elmira, people treasure a rural landscape at the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. A bit south and west of there, visitors travel to the Pennsylvania Wilds, a land once deforested, now forest again and home to the largest elk herd in the eastern United States. Still further south lies the internationally known Amish farming country of Lancaster County where off the main roads one sees and feels part of a different way of life. From Gettysburg through the Shenandoah Valley are the fields and small towns where our nation tore itself apart in the 1860s, now hallowed ground. The Appalachians roll off to the west and to the east lies the vast coastal plain surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. Along these shores landscapes once indigenous, then colonial, later maritime, and today recreational, rural and urban, sit at the heart of the narrative of this larger place.

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

This vast landscape of the Chesapeake watershed is a mosaic of all of the above, drawn together in countless ways: by the great rivers of the Chesapeake – James, Rappahannock, Potomac, Shenandoah, Susquehanna, Choptank and more; by layers and layers of history at the crux of the nation’s story; by interconnected waters, marshes and forests crucial to millions upon millions of migrating birds; by a tradition of local and regional farming still part of the region’s identity; even by a series of trails and byways that trace these connections – the heart of the Appalachian Trail, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath, the Captain John Smith Trail, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground and more.

This greater Chesapeake landscape – in all its diversity – has inspired conservation efforts for well over one hundred years. The historic preservation movement was born here in the 1860s at Mt. Vernon. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century conservationists worked to protect and restore overwhelmingly deforested lands, forming the basis of what are now extensive state and national forests—magnets for recreation. In the 1950s and 1960s, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was a vocal advocate for establishing what would become the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park – a significant landscape conservation corridor along the Potomac River, and one that crosses another major corridor, the Appalachian Trail. Leadership at the state level spawned innovation that set national examples and stimulated adoption across broader regions. Vastly successful land protection programs were created in the latter half of the century in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Pennsylvania established one of the first state heritage area programs and Maryland followed suit. A case can be made that the intensive development of heritage areas in Pennsylvania in the late 1980s and 1990s fueled the rapid growth of heritage areas nation-wide that continues to this day. The growth of local and regional land trusts in the Chesapeake over the past several decades mirrors explosive growth of land trusts nationwide. Innovative approaches to targeting and prioritizing conservation values have arisen here as well, such as Maryland’s “Greenprint” and Virginia’s natural landscape assessments.

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

The 3.4 million acre Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area is an example. A landscape bound together by the rolling Piedmont from Gettysburg to Monticello tells a big piece of the Chesapeake’s—and the nation’s—story. With the homes of homes of nine presidents, battlefields from the French & Indian Wars to the Civil War, working farms and forests and a national scenic byway, this place is rich is resources. Yet, it is the tying together of it all through a partnership, a name, promotion, education, conservation and leadership that make it so compelling today. It is an example of large landscape collaboration at the heart of the Chesapeake region; and an example of the success and innovation of the region as well.

We have made great steps here. Unlike western states, by the close of the 19th century very little land in the Chesapeake watershed was permanently protected, just one or two percent, if that. One hundred plus years of efforts to conserve this very large landscape, and the many special landscapes within it, has brought a different result. By 2010, approximately 7.8 million acres in the watershed were permanently protected, twenty percent of the land mass. More than a half million of these are within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, the majority privately protected by their owners through conservation easements.

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Yet, there is even more challenging work ahead. This is also a landscape of 18 million people, most in the great arc of metropolitan area surrounding the Bay from Norfolk to Richmond to Washington to Baltimore. The pace of change quickens, even more so as a changing climate and its effects on land, water, wildlife, culture and people unfold. Land fragmentation, invasive weeds, water quality and availability, the quest for energy, even the survival of stories and cultures all present challenges that extend across jurisdictions, organizations, and landscapes. The imperative of nurturing linkages and scaling up partnerships to extend across the Chesapeake region, along rivers and trails, and between cities and countryside springs from these increasingly complex challenges.

Working at the landscape level is difficult. As conservation partners, we need the management tools of coordination, mediation, and facilitation of dialogue. We need our knowledge-building to include information at scales relevant to managing water, adapting to a changing climate, or protecting wildlife or historic resources. And we need to work across large landscapes to develop means that strengthen dialogue, support shared actions, leverage resources and enhance coordination.

But this is what Journey Through Hallowed Ground has already started. And it is what’s going on through a partnership among landscapes throughout the Chesapeake region. Now it’s time to start reminding people of the importance of this work, of the region’s long leadership in conservation, and of the beauty and value of the many Chesapeake landscapes.

The Economic Impact of Tourism in the Region

NTTW14_V_4CThe first full week of May is annually recognized as National Travel and Tourism Week, a tradition first celebrated in 1984, established by a Congressional joint resolution passed in 1983.

Within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a 180-mile long, 75-mile swath of land stretching from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia that contains a vibrant natural, historical, and cultural landscape, there is much to celebrate this week.

Tourism is, indeed, one of the largest industries in this four-state, 15 county region that was designated by Congress as the 38th National Heritage Area in this country. In fact, tourism is a $4 billion dollar industry in the region, that is Billion with a B. In other words, for illustration purposes, it generates $4,000,000,000 (most of us don’t see this many zeros) for our regional economy, according to 2012 data. In fact, tourism within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area employs nearly 50,000 employees, with over $1.3 Billion in tourism- related employment income. And just as important, this industry contributes $371 million dollars in state and local government revenue to support important public services.

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

And there’s plenty of reasons why tourism plays an important role here. With 400 years of European, American and African-American heritage, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground is a National Heritage Area, visitors can explore 400 years of our history on just one tank of gas. Heritage tourism traditionally provides the most beneficial value and we have plenty of that. Known as the region Where America Happened™, this region is home to National and World Heritage sites, over 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 49 National Historic districts, nine Presidential sites, hundreds of African American and Native American heritage sites, sites from the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War, War of 1812, and the largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation.

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

In addition, this is a Land of Beauty, with 13 National Parks, a hundred scenic waterways, and over 100 wineries, farms, and orchards with bucolic countryside, valleys, and mountain ranges to explore. Visitors can hike or bike some of the top trails in the country, canoe a number of the rivers, stop at any number of pick your own orchards or farms, and so much more.

And for cultural enthusiasts, there is plenty of culinary dining destinations, craft breweries, and distilleries to fulfill any quench. Not to mention the shopping and arts amenities offered in the over 30 Historic Main Street communities up and down this corridor. And connecting all of these locations is an artery known as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, the 99th such road designated as such by the Department of Transportation.

So as we pause to reflect, or celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, let us remember how travel also promotes physical and physiological health and improves workplace productivity. In 2013, the average U.S. employee skipped 3.2 days of paid time off. According to a recent study, if workers used all of their available paid time off, the U.S. economy would gain $160 billion in additional annual business sales, which would support 1.2 million new jobs and generate $21 billion in new annual tax revenues. If employees would take just one additional day of earned leave each year, it would add $73 billion annually to the U.S. GDP.

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

“It is now empirical, rather than just anecdotal, that travel is a key driver for improving individual health and strengthening our businesses and economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the umbrella organization representing the U.S. travel industry. “Travel holds measurable benefits for our minds, bodies, relationships, businesses and economy. Travel should be celebrated every day.”

The fifteen counties/communities, in whole or in part, that make up the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area include: Adams County, PA; Frederick, Carroll, and Washington Counties in Maryland; Harpers Ferrry, WV; and Loudoun, Fauquier, Culpeper, Prince William, Greene, Madison, Rapphannock, Spotsylvania, Orange, and Albemarle Counties in Virginia. To request a map, view suggested travel itineraries, or get more information, visit

‘Hallowed Ground’ with no Farmers?

The National Heritage Area known as Journey Through Hallowed Ground is recognizable for its rolling hills and mountains, and its farmland. While there are a dozen or so cities and towns that dot the Piedmont from Gettysburg to Charlottesville, farms still form most of the landscape inhabited by our founding fathers and they are emblematic of the culture that helped form the nation. The farmland hasn’t changed that much. What may be missing is the next generation of farmers.

Monticello. Photo by Greg Bowen

Monticello. Photo by Greg Bowen

On May 2nd, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2012 ag census data for the states. Since 1840, the U.S. government has been conducting censuses of agriculture. Those who have been watching agriculture trends for some time will not be surprised as to how few farmers there are age 34 and younger.

The trend has been in place for some time. The “green revolution” began in the 1940s and really kicked in during the 1960s and 1970s. It involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, better equipment, more irrigation, hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides and it has vastly increased U.S. farm productivity. For example, average corn yield increased from 30 bushels per acre in 1930 to 150 bushels per acre today. It also resulted in increased farm sizes and it has reduced the need for farmers and farm laborers. The average farm size in the U.S. increased from 174 acres in 1940 to 434 acres in 2012.  According to a USDA report Farm Size and the Organization of U.S. Crop Farming, published last year, the number of farms with at least 10,000 acres of cropland grew 179% from 2001 to 2011 (from 409 farms to 1,140 farms).

Historic barn in Frederick. Photo by Greg Bowen

Historic barn in Frederick. Photo by Greg Bowen

As the need for new farmers decreased, ag in the classroom was dropped in most school districts. Farm children left the farms to seek other careers. Yet, farm productivity continued to improve with new equipment and  new production methods. In 1940, roughly 20% of all farm operators were 34 and under. By 2012, that dropped to 5.6%. There are nearly six times as many farmers age 65+ as there are farmers 34 and younger. The USDA predicts that up to half of all farmers are likely to retire in the next decade. Who will replace them?

In the United States, the swath of land within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area is an old farming region. The farms were carved out of the wooded hills and valleys in the early 18th century as the leaders of the colonies began debating the formation of a new nation. Today, the farm sizes put them at a disadvantage of scale for commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) and industrial livestock production.

In the last few decades a new ag trend has emerged–the local food movement. Direct food sales in the U.S. have been growing twice as fast as total ag sales.  These types of operations are well suited to the small-scale farms in the region and this has generated renewed interest in farming. However, beginning farmers are finding it difficult getting access to land. Most did not grow up on a farm. Those who want to grow vegetables, fruits, and livestock need a place to live on the farm and water for the crops and/or livestock. For most beginning farmers, it makes sense to lease land, as long as they have enough experience and there is housing and the ability to have the infrastructure to operate.

States in the National Heritage Area
Maryland Pennsylvania Virginia West Virginia U.S.
Average farm size 166 130 181 168 434
Percentage of farm operators 34 or younger 4.9% 8.3% 6.1% 4.2% 5.6%

Each of the four states in the National Heritage Area are striving to preserve the region’s farmland and help beginning farmers gain access to land. For example, in Maryland there is the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and Maryland FarmLINK, a free resource that helps farmers sell, buy or lease farmland, mentor novice farmers and find important farming news and information. Resources like this are important, but communities will need to support these efforts if they want the programs to succeed by getting to know their farmers and purchasing local farm products.

This is an important time for the region. If we hope to continue to see the working landscapes and witness the farming culture that helped to create our nation, we will need to support opportunities for the next generation of farmers to get established.