By George Mauzy
How do you teach students history from a textbook about a time more than a century ago or of places like Antietam, where in one single day in 1862, more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing? Bob Leith, history instructor at Ohio University Southern Campus, has the answer: you let them live the history by visiting these historic sites for themselves.
Leith and Southern Campus Director of Travel and Tourism Steve Call have found a way to combine history and travel to give students a life-changing educational experience. The Education on Location program offers low-cost trips to locations around the world that allow students to experience first hand what they have read about in textbooks.
The trips also allow students to earn college credits in a variety of disciplines. Therefore, many of the excursions are collaborations with departments such as art, art history, history, foreign language, music and English. In addition, students in the travel and tourism program get real-world experience in making the travel arrangements and serving as tour guides.
"I call it edutainment," Call said. "Tour participants enjoy the trips at an affordable price and learn so much about the location, while my students benefit by serving as both a travel agent and tour guide. However, I always tell people before they sign up that this is not a vacation. We stay busy for 14 to 16 hours a day on these trips."
Last April, Call and Leith took a group of 90 people to Gettysburg, Pa., the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md. and Harpers Ferry in Virginia.
While wearing his Civil War Preservation baseball cap, Leith explained in detail what happened in Gettysburg at 3 p.m. on July 3, 1863. After which participants hovered in the woods at the Confederate lines as they prepared to re-enact "George Pickett's Charge," the Confederates' one-mile advance toward Cemetery Ridge and the Union Army.
"These trips have been very popular and I give much of the credit to Steve Call and his travel and tourism students because they do such a great job of organizing the trips and offering them at an affordable price," Leith said. "The trips always fill up fast and the demand for more is steadily increasing."
Proving Call's point that these trips are anything but a vacation, the students volunteered to plant trees, the service-learning component of the trip. After an all-night bus ride, everyone rose early to plant 200 trees. This effort helped to recreate the "West Woods" of the 1862 Antietam Battlefield in Maryland.
In Gettysburg, Pa., the group was able to visit many historic Civil War sites, including battlefields, landmarks and the cemetery that was the site of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address speech. Jim Getty, the foremost Lincoln re-enactor in the United States, met with the group to talk about the military action of the Civil War.
During the last few years, the Education on Location program has sent students to places such as Jamaica, London, Paris, New York, Ireland and the Caribbean. In May, a group of students visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
The program is popular among students and community members. In fact, Call estimates that non-students sometimes make up as much as 40 percent of the participants."
The next Education on Location trip will take place Oct. 24-26, when a group embarks on the Ohio Presidents Tour in observance of the state's bicentennial celebration. The trip consists of visits to the historic homes and memorial sites of seven of the U.S. presidents from Ohio.
For more information about the Education on Location program or the upcoming Ohio Presidents Tour, call Steve Call at (740) 533-4559.
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.