Category Archives: Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student™

Experiencing Presidents’ Day In The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area

For some residents, Presidents’ Day is a recognized federal holiday, a day off of school or work. I can recall honoring the actual birthdays of President George Washington (Feb. 22) and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). But the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971 moved the holiday to the third Monday in February and is intended to celebrate all those that have served as our nation’s top leader. Whether you have the day off or not, this is a great opportunity to connect with our shared American heritage. Right here in our region, there is a rich collection of presidential history. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a 180-mile swath of land that stretches from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, is known as the region Where America Happened™. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area contains more history than any other in the nation and includes: National and World Heritage sites, over 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 49 National Historic districts, nine Presidential homes, 13 National Parks, hundreds of African American and Native American heritage sites, 30 historic main street communities, sites from the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War, War of 1812 and the largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation.

Of course there are the traditional places where Washington slept, but many other presidents visited or lived within this historic region. For example, Gettysburg, PA, primarily known for the battle that took place there in 1863, is also home to the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The former home and farm of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower served the President as a weekend retreat and a meeting place for world leaders. With its peaceful setting and view of South Mountain, it was a much-needed respite from Washington and a backdrop for efforts to reduce Cold War tensions. For more information, visit

Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Nearby, tucked away in the Catoctin Mountain region of Maryland sits the presidential retreat known as Camp David. Essentially, every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has traversed to this retreat site while they were in office. Although it is closed off to visitors, individuals can visit Catoctin Mountain Park, where there is some interpretation of Shangri-La and its predecessor available at the Visitors Center. For more information, visit

Traveling down Route 15, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, visitors should also stop in Middleburg, Virginia. Considered the capital of Loudoun County’s horse country, President John F. and Mrs. Jackie Kennedy leased and then purchased a place in the quaint town as their own country retreat. In the 1990s, Jackie Kennedy Onassis often returned to spend fox-hunting weekends in the Middleburg countryside, which was filled with happy memories from her time as First Lady. Today, visitors can see memorabilia at the Red Fox Inn and other establishments visited by the first family. The town’s public pavilion and garden are dedicated to her. A great website to check out is

Montpelier, located near Orange, VA, was the lifelong home of James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” and fourth President of the United States. The mansion core was built by Madison’s father circa 1760. The house has been newly restored to the way it looked when James and Dolley Madison returned from Washington in 1817, following Madison’s two terms as President. The 2,650-acre estate features the Madison mansion, 135 historic buildings, a steeplechase course, gardens, forests, the Gilmore Cabin, a farm, two galleries and an Education Center with permanent and changing exhibits, many archaeological sites and an Archaeology Laboratory. Information can be found at

In Charlottesville sits Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States and noted architect and inventor. Jefferson began construction on his “little mountain” home in 1769 and, after remodeling and enlarging the house, finally finished 40 years later in 1809. For more information, visit

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

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

Jefferson’s friend and neighbor James Monroe owned Ash Lawn-Highland, along with his wife Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, from 1793 to 1826 and their official residence from 1799 to 1823. Ash Lawn-Highland is an historic house museum and 535-acre working farm of the former U.S. President and Revolutionary War veteran. Check out for more details.

Also in the area is Pine Knott, the country retreat of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and their children from 1905 to 1908 during his term as President. This rural retreat from the “city environment” of Washington, D.C. provided a sanctuary for the Roosevelt family where they could hike, observe birds and wildlife, hunt, ride and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. The building had no plumbing, toilet, heat, or electricity or other facilities for the family, with a minimum of rustic comfortable furniture. For more information, check out

Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

In addition to the sites listed above, several other presidents visited towns and locations throughout the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. For example, President Lincoln’s footsteps can be traced to several locations. After the Battle of Antietam, he visited the site to meet with Union generals as well as wounded soldiers. During that trip, he stopped in other places such as Harpers Ferry, WV and Frederick, MD, where he gave remarks to citizens gathered on the street. And a year later, he gave a short address in Gettysburg that would is recited today by many around the world. Travelers interested in getting the presidential experience will find maps, suggested itineraries, and other travel resources are available at

Preserving Battlefields within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground

While the Journey Through Hallowed Ground covers four centuries of American history, few eras are more densely represented within its boundaries than the Civil War. In fact, many of the conflict’s most iconic engagements occurred along the Journey, making the Civil War Trust an enthusiastic supporter of the partnership’s mission.

Tracing its origins to 1987, when a group of concerned historians met in Fredericksburg, VA, to discuss the loss of Northern Virginia battlefields to the expanding suburbs of Washington, D.C.,the Trust has grown to become the nation’s premier heritage land preservation organization. In total, the organization has permanently protected, either through outright purchase or strategic conservation easement, more than 40,000 acres of battlefield land at 122 sites in 20 states.

Chancellorsville (Shenk) 1499Examining the concentration of those achievements along the Journey corridor emphasizes the historic significance of this region in tangible terms. To date, the Trust has preserved land at 22 individual battlefields within the Journey, accounting for nearly one-third of all the land the organization has protected — 13,395 acres through December 15, 2014!

At the northern terminus of the Journey, 943 of those acres are at Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. In Maryland and West Virginia, we have saved 1,412 acres associated with the Antietam Campaign, which spurred Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

And in the rolling Virginia piedmont, we’ve saved a tremendous 1,901 acres associated with the largest cavalry battle ever fought in the western hemisphere, Brandy Station — including, with the Journey’s support, the crest of storied Fleetwood Hill. A full list of the Journey battlefields where the Civil War Trust has protected land is included below; the full tally is available at:

CWT2Even as we pause to contemplate the breadth of that involvement and accomplishment, it is important to remember what, even more than geography, ties these places together: the sacrifices and bravery of our ancestors. True to the Journey’s name, these battlefields are, indeed, hallowed ground, blood-soaked and perpetual.

A protected battlefield is not just an artifact of the past; it can be many things of value in our modern society, all of which play a role in the Journey’s larger mission. An outdoor classroom where students of all ages can touch an artifact, the landscape itself, that played a role it historic events — and provide a fantastic backdrop for “Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student” productions. An environmental resource, maintaining green space and providing habitats for native plants and animals. A powerful economic engine — ask any Certified Tourism Ambassador! — through the proven formula of heritage tourism.

But, perhaps, most importantly, these battlefields are living monument to the memory of America’s brave soldiers, past, present and future. Through their longevity, they are simultaneously a tangible link to the past and a bridge to future generations. In this same spirit, the Civil War Trust is an enthusiastic supporter of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground’s Living Legacy Project, a demonstrable showcase of the true toll the Civil War exacted on our nation, the more than 620,000 Americans who perished.

In 2015, we will mark the end of the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration period, but the Trust’s commitment to preservation, and our partnership with the Journey Through Hallowed Ground will continue. In fact, we look forward to deepening our involvement in the region through the recently launched Campaign 1776, which will engage in parallel work — protecting battlefield land and educating the public about American history — related to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

CWT1Battlefields in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground where the Civil War Trust has preserved acreage include:

Maryland Sites — 897.44 Acres

South Mountain

Pennsylvania Sites — 943 Acres


Virginia Sites — 10,458.17 Acres

Ball’s Bluff
Brandy Station
Bristoe Station
Cedar Mountain
Cool Spring
Kelly’s Ford
Mine Run
Rappahannock Station
Spotsylvania Court House
Thoroughfare Gap
Trevilian Station

West Virginia Sites — 658.8 Acres

Harpers Ferry

In The News In 2014


As the year’s end approaches, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the past.  We are fortunate at the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area to have so many wonderful stakeholders: donors, volunteers, community partners, and the media. 

To recap 2014, we thought it would be good to share with you the work of our various programs and activities through the lens of the media.  We appreciate the willingness of the writers, reporters, and photographers who helped spread the word of our various work.  As a result, we have picked the Top 12 stories that best represent our diverse programs.


1. Leesburg Today, August 7


2.  USA Today, November 13

3. Washington Post, July 10

4. American Nurseryman, September issue

5. Military Times, July 21

6. Civil War Courier, Jan. 1


7. Eastern Home & Travel, April issue

8. AAA Motorist, October issue

9. Southern Living, October 11

10. Find it Frederick Magazine, Winter issue:


11. Daily Progress, May 29


12. Frederick News Post, October 3

This list represents local, regional, and national media coverage.  We look forward to more opportunities to share our message in 2015 and thank all our stakeholders for contributing to our success.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photo by Kenneth Garrett. Copyright Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Student-Created Vodcasts Available For Video On Demand Viewing through Partnership with Comcast

Comcast has made six new vodcasts, or mini-documentaries, created by middle school students through the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s innovative and award-winning Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® program, available for free viewing through Xfinity On Demand.  The student programming can be viewed by Xfinity TV customers in the Richmond, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., and Roanoke areas.  The programming can be found by going to the Xfinity On Demand menu and choosing either Get Local/Community Investment/Hallowed Ground or Get Local/Entertainment/Hallowed Ground.IMG_4034

Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® is a service-learning project that connects middle school students to the American Civil War as they use primary source documents, humanities scholarship, music, dance, dramatic readings, role-playing and digital technology to create vodcasts, or mini-documentaries, for the National Parks in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.  From beginning to end, the students serve as scriptwriters, actors, directors, choreographers, set designers, costume creators, videographers, film editors and now young history stars with deep connections to our national history.

During the 2013-2014 school year, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership completed new vodcasts with students from Orange County Public Schools.  The vodcasts covered various topics relating to the Battle of The Wilderness and the start of the Overland Campaign These student-generated vodcasts will become part of the official interpretive materials at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and are available to educators, students and visitors worldwide through various websites. IMG_4091

Cate Magennis Wyatt, JTHG Partnership President, stated “We are so very excited to be able to share these educational vodcasts with parents, teachers and students. These works provide great insight into creative teaching as well as best practices for learning history.”

The collaboration between Comcast and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership was initially introduced through History.  “History Channel is delighted to join our cable partners in helping these local student productions reach a wider audience,” said Libby Haight O’Connell, Senior Vice President, Corporate Outreach and Chief Historian, History. “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s work in preservation and education is outstanding, and the student documentaries highlight the value of local history.”IMG_4154

In addition to History, generous support for this project is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, and the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation.  In addition to placing these and previous student-created vodcats, Comcast supported this initiative by creating a Comcast Newsmakers segment from the 2013 program in Gettysburg, providing an overview of the process.  To check out that video, visit  For more information about the Of the Student, By the Student For the Student® program, visit

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!”