download (2)The “trumpet of the revolution” Patrick Henry was called, largely because of a speech he gave in Williamsburg after the British Parliament passed the onerous Stamp Act requiring colonists to purchase and affix stamps to various legal and other papers, newspapers, and even playing cards. Stirring words – and they stirred Virginia’s burgesses. Some historians doubt as to whether these words were even spoken by Henry. There effect was not. They did give courage to the feint-hearted. In Williamsburg, an angry crowd forced the newly appointed stamp collector to resign. Even so called moderate leaders like George Washington were soon describing the tax as a “direful attack upon … Liberties”.

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How odd that I should be reading this history … while at home in Australia our country was changing Prime Minister’s … again.

I am not complaining.

The regular morning trip down the M5 to my office at Bankstown in the School of Education at Western Sydney University (WSU) has been traded for a short-time for a 10 minute walk to a new office in the School of Education at the College of William & Mary. The College was established in 1693 and is the second oldest college (after Harvard) in the United States. The royal charter for the college came from – no surprises here – King William and Queen Mary. It is old and very, very beautiful.

Each morning I walk through the living museum that is “Colonial Williamsburg” (CW). Traffic queues on the M5 are a growing distant memory as I stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street, where today I witnessed … a fencing master teaching a patriot how to handle a sword; a young family were walking to Bruton Parish for a service; a coach was stopping to check the hooves of its team of horses and George Washington was preparing to march his troops towards Yorktown.

photo 2-23I am not kidding and this is all while I am striding out – keen to see whether ‘MT has the numbers’ … the coffee stop (and yes it serves really good coffee) beyond CW has wifi. I logon …

Yes – MT is PM … now back to the main point of the post.

CW is a 30-acre Historic Area in Virginia, USA. The ultimate site for a school history excursion one might say… it’s 18th Century America. Here, people live in the homes, cook food of the era, work in the trades and dress in clothes of the period. It’s very well done.

A bit ‘Big Dig’ and ‘Sovereign Hill’ mixed together but on a larger scale. And, for Social Studies teachers and school students ‘CW is American history nirvana’.

photo 2-30The buildings range from government buildings like the Capitol to colonial homes like those of Peyton Randolph and George Wythe, from the grandeur of the Governor’s place to the smell of an apothecary … to the grittiness of a blacksmith’s shop.

It is certainly a full day field trip where school students can explorphoto 2-28e gardens kept in the manner of 18th century, camp out in tents as if on the bank of a river hideaway, ride in a horse and carriage, dig in an archeological site that has real artefacts and when ‘discovered’ each find forms part of the CW collection. Workers of CW interact with the public by making ‘scripted proclamations’, invite participation in old-fashioned outdoor games and create mock trials in the local courthouse. There are probably enough experiential activities for a whole week of history learning. It’s history where students can get their ‘hands dirty’. CW forms one of three major sites in America’s photo 1-30Historic Triangle and like all stories it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

The seeds of the nation sown in the wilderness of Jamestown Island bore fruit in the revolutionary city of Williamsburg from fruits harvested on the battlefields of Yorktown (I’ll post about the other two towns in the Historic Triangle later).

The story of the area opens in 1607 … it is silent in its history about the huge human losses and the plight of native peoples and slaves that toiled to build many of the roads that modern-day America now walks and drives upon. I am ‘no American history buff’ – my daughter on the other hand is and she was photo 3-13keen to point out the many other stories …. but I do know that the Revolution that ensued in the area bought many years of suffering and war … it culminated right here on the streets where I walk each morning. Not sure how I feel about that.

I plan to use #jhstudyleave on Twitter while I am teaching and researching in the US – I will storify the tweets in a few months time or in stages. I will write a some other posts with the usual school, curriculum, pedagogy, HSIE, STEM and technology enhanced learning focus that you might be interested in.

In the meantime MT – “make the most of it” – I hear cannons firing in the distance … I am not joking.

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“If this be treason, make the most of it” announced Patrick Henry.