Living History and Loving Nonfiction!
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln.
Earlier this month was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination and death. My family and I took an amazing journey into Washington, D.C., to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event memorializing Lincoln. We were going to be inside Ford’s Theatre exactly 150 years after Lincoln was shot.
When we arrived in D.C., we had an hour before our tickets to Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was shot and to the Petersen house where Lincoln died. As a family, we spent that time searching for answers to a cool Junior Ranger’s packet from the National Park Service. The packet placed me back in history as an investigative reporter. Then as 2:30 p.m. rolled around, we made our way into the theater.
I stepped through those old doors and looked around in awe; I almost believed I could feel Lincoln’s presence all around me. It was a surreal moment. When we took our seats and prepared for the talk to begin, I couldn’t help but stare up at the president’s box. It was historical, mysterious, and scary all at once! Shortly thereafter, a park ranger wearing a dress from that time period walked out on stage and shared with us the sad and thrilling tale of the events surrounding Lincoln’s shooting and death. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of that infamous box.
Next, my family and I crossed the street to walk through the Petersen house. Then we walked through a series of exhibits that describe John Wilkes Booth’s escape and capture as well as showcase artifacts that were at the crime scene.
I think one of the best parts of this historical experience is the timing. My sixth-grade language arts class is just beginning to read the book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson. Now, as I read the book amongst my classmates, I can’t help but feel that the story is more personal to me. I feel as if I know these people...as if I saw this event take place. I am connecting to the book on a completely different, and more exciting, level. Another great aspect of this is that my peers can learn from my experience as I share the knowledge and details I gained from our trip to Ford’s Theatre.
This experience was beyond amazing. I would love for more students to have opportunities like this with their families. To all the parents and teachers out there, I’m telling you how much this has affected me. I’m asking you to help your students learn on a more intense and exciting level. Experiences like this don’t come around every day, but it would be amazing to have them come around more often. Don’t you think?
What do you do to make history come alive for your students?