Thursday, June 11, 2015

Previous Trips to Mount Vernon

This post is part of my blog reflecting on my experiences this summer in the Mount Vernon Life Guard Teacher Fellowship program. My blog specifically devoted to the Mount Vernon experience can be found here.

My first trip to Mount Vernon was in the summer of 2006.  My wife and I were in Washington DC and spent a day at the estate.  Getting there was memorable - we took the Metro as far south as we could go and then got on a bus to take us to Mount Vernon.  Instead of getting on the express bus to Mount Vernon we got on the regular bus which made about 30 stops on the way there.  We laugh about it now but it was a long ride.

We both loved the day we spent at Mount Vernon.  My wife also has a history education degree and we proudly wear the "history geek" badge. We really liked the gardens and the working farm. Washington's 16 sided barn was probably my favorite feature of the estate.  

Photo by Eric Langhorst
I have also found it interesting that once you visit a historical site you often find yourself motivated to read more about the history of the site or the person.  This was definitely true after my first visit to Mount Vernon.  I read a couple more books on Washington, incorporated some of the information from our trip in my lesson plans the next year and knew that someday I would visit again.

My second opportunity to see Mount Vernon was a participant in the 2010 Gilder Lehrman Summer Institute.  The Gilder Lehrman summer institutes are amazing and this was no exception.  I was one of a group of teachers from around the country who listened to speakers, took tours of the grounds and had amazing access to everything the estate had to offer. During this visit I was able to tour the mill and the distillery for the first time.  While we were there Mount Vernon began selling the first whiskey from the new distillery and there was considerable media coverage surrounding it.  This second trip again renewed my interest in Mount Vernon and when I had the opportunity I would read books on Washington.  In preparation for the workshop I read His Excellency George Washington by Joseph J Ellis and also purchased a couple of smaller books on Washington's agricultural interests, George Washington's Gristmill by Dennis Pogue and Esther White and George Washington Pioneer Farmer by Alan Fusonie. I also read Adopted Son by David Clary following my second visit which described the relationship between Washington and Lafayette.

The third opportunity to spend time at the estate was in September of 2014 as a participant of the Mount Vernon Missouri Teachers' Weekend.  The Missouri Teachers' weekend began in 2013 as a workshop to enable teachers from Missouri the opportunity to visit and learn at Mount Vernon over the course of several days.  The experience is provided through the generosity of Paul M. Shatz and Deane Lee Shatz.

Photo by Eric Langhorst
The unique characteristic of this third visit was my opportunity to visit the new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, opened almost exactly a year earlier.  We had our lectures in the beautiful David M. Rubenstein Hall and had incredible tours of the estate.  The staff was generous with their time and we had high quality scholars on Washington providing lectures.

The four days spent at Mount Vernon and experiencing the new library sparked my desire to apply for a 2015 Mount Vernon Life Guard Teacher Fellowship.  Access to the library, the expertise of the staff and ability to stay at the estate will provide me a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about Washington and create a resource that teachers can use in their classrooms.

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