The National History Academy is built around site-based learning. Students visit many of the defining historic sites in the region, including Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, and Washington, DC; iconic National Parks such as Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal, the Appalachian Trail, and the National Mall; the presidential homes and retreats of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Lincoln, and Eisenhower; numerous Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War battlefields, including Yorktown, Fort McHenry, Gettysburg, and Antietam, and sites related to the fight for Civil Rights, including places that tell the stories of Frederick Douglass, John Brown, W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2018, students also had once-in-a-lifetime experiences, including seeing the Broadway hit Hamilton at the Kennedy Center, screening the movie Gettysburg in Gettysburg with the film’s director, Ron Maxwell, and participating in re-enactments of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond, and a sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter at the Smithsonian. Historical site visits provide context and truly “make history come alive.”
The immersive site visits are supplemented in the classrooms with the History of American Democracy case studies developed by Harvard Business School and traditional parliamentary style debates employed by Better Angels to improve civil discourse. The combined impact of this experiential, collaborative and participatory learning is evident through improved critical and creative thinking skills and the elevated self-esteem and self-confidence of our students.