Stevenson University's history majors recently traveled to a WWII living history event near Gettysburg.
CAPTION: Young woman in '40s era dress at a display area for the Scottish Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regiment.
At the event Stevenson's history majors participated as both living historians and visitors. With over 500 living historians portraying dozens of military units, the war in Europe became the interpretive program for the weekend. Taking place at Dwight Eisenhower's former farm, thousands of visitors actively engaged with reenactors throughout the day. In the case of one Stevenson history major, Haley Mabe, she immersed herself in the experience as a reenactor herself. The educational event combined both experiential and traditional learning for Stevenson's history majors as they listened to actual WWII veterans, reenactors who have spent years learning about that war, and by operating the very equipment those soldiers used in WWII. Featuring talks by historians on a variety of WWII topics, a hall of “Hall of Heroes” showcasing actual veterans of WWII, a special family activities tent, and a WWII-era hanger (swing) dance, the event held learning opportunities for everyone.
CAPTION: Stevenson history major Haley Mabe in a WWII-era woman's uniform. To her right is Stevenson history professor Joe McGraw.
Arriving at the encampment in late-morning, the history majors found themselves among acres of tents, military vehicles, weapons, and display areas. There visitors learned about topics as diverse as cavalry and their horses, USO entertainment troupes, Red Cross activities, French Resistance operations, Russian soldiers, how mail was delivered in a battle zone, and prisoners-of-war held at Gettysburg during WWII. Living historians--reenactors-- age 16-75 comprised the bulk of the uniformed participants. Most noticeable was a tenfold increase from prior years of young women portraying nurses, USO entertainers, members of Britain's Women's Land Army, US WASP airplane ferry pilots, and Rosie the Riveters.
CAPTION: Noticing he was wearing a "Bernie" tee shirt, the Russian reenactors interrogated history major Anthony Plaag about his political beliefs. Here Anthony wears a Russian soldier's cap loaned to him in recognition of his belief in Marxist historical theory. Just a few moments later, betraying his "Marxist" beliefs, Anthony's fundamental trust in capitalism emerged when he wanted to charge Professor McGraw $5 to wear that same hat.
This field trip is a perfect example of Stevenson's unique approach to teaching history which features field trips, experiential learning, service learning, and engagement with experts in the field. Leaving campus behind and getting out into the non-academic world provides Stevenson's history majors the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning, develop a sense of the career opportunities available through one's history degree, and how historians engage with the public.
Caption: Reenactors portraying British Women's Land Army personnel illustrate a wartime lunch of cheese spread and sliced tomatoes on whole wheat.
CAPTION: Stevenson history major Anthony Plaag learns how to operate an antiaircraft gun.