10 Back to School Lessons from the Yorktown Victory Center

There’s something about this time of year that makes one crave knowledge.

I’m done with school (but never done with learning) so I headed through the tunnel to the Yorktown Victory Center to learn about life in the early United States and the center itself.

The Yorktown Victory Center and nearby Jamestown Settlement is a wealth of knowledge about the origins of our country. I was delighted to discover that the experience as an adult is much different than the field trips many of us remember as children. The history is the same, of course, but the outdoor living history settlement and Continental Army encampment as well as the costumed employees fascinated me and as I was walking through, I remembered facts that I hadn’t thought about in years.

Photos: History Lessons from Yorktown Victory Center

There’s so much great history at our fingertips here in Hampton Roads, and I strongly encourage you to check out Yorktown Victory Center for yourself. But in case you need some more convincing or can’t make it right away, here are some important lessons to remember and share:

  1. The Yorktown Victory Center is under construction! It started in 2013 and has been a slow process in order to keep the center open for visitors, but late next year it will reopen as the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

    A peek into what will be the new museum
    A peek into what will be the new museum
  2. One of the coolest things that I can’t wait to see at the new museum will be an original broadside of the Declaration of Independence. That’s a copy of the document itself, and the one coming to us here in Hampton Roads originally hung in Boston and was put up in July of 1776. Cool, huh?
  3. The 1780s settlement is an actual working farm with tobacco, vegetables and herbs that would have grown in settlers’ gardens in our area. Visitors are encouraged to get hands on and see how the farm works, from planting to harvesting.
  4. In the spirit of education, I asked Museum Teacher and Historical Interpreter Julie Fox about how kids learned back in those days. “Kids learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also how to run a farm,” she said. So the next time that your middle schooler complains about having to change for gym class, remind them that at least they don’t have to pick corn in the middle of the day!

    An older farmer teaches a young "farmer" how to work on the settlement
    An older farmer teaches a young “farmer” how to work on the settlement
  5. Take your kids to the settlement home on the farm for a real shocker. No video games, no TV, not even a phone. Tell your kids they have checkers and cards to play with until bed time!
  6. Much of the home education for settler’s children was done by the mother, the farm education was done by the father out in the fields. The reading and writing lessons were held in the evening hours after all the day’s work was completed, and when modern day kids would usually be watching TV.
  7. Although the settlement and encampment strive to stay as authentic as possible, the sounds of modern construction carry over. For this reason some historical interpreters do use microphones, but only to address the crowds and only when necessary so everyone can learn.
  8. The newest building of the Yorktown Victory Center has an education wing with five classrooms that have a mix of hands-on historical replicas and modern-day technology to reach 21st century kids. If you have a student going on a field trip there this year, he or she will likely wind up in one of these rooms!

    Forget school supplies! Students get a small chalkboard- that's it!
    Forget school supplies! Students get a small chalkboard- that’s it!
  9. The education programs for class groups and tour groups are a big part of the Center, but individuals and families should definitely check it out as well. There are programs and tours for kids of all ages (adults too!) and some in particular for home schooled children. Check them out by clicking here. 
  10. When visiting Jamestown, expect to spend at least 3 hours walking around and learning about the English settlement. The Yorktown Victory Center covers Revolutionary War-era history, and takes about two hours to work through. Great way to spend a weekend!

For more information on these great historic sites that are truly a wealth of knowledge for not only your youngster but you as well, visit www.historyisfun.org!