On July 22, the American Military History pre-college course at Marist College concluded. Students and staff both had an exciting two weeks full of field trips, games, lectures, and most excitingly, an overnight encampment at Marist’s own Payne Mansion. Although it was a packed two weeks, everyone was sad to see it end.
Marist’s pre-college courses are designed for high school students to experience the excitement of college life and become more independent as they learn both academically challenging material and what it will be like to live on a college campus away from home. Students are fully immersed in a three-credit college level course taught by some of Marist’s outstanding faculty. The American Military History course just completed its third year as part of the program. The course aims to immerse students in military history with active learning from the War for Independence to Afghanistan. Students are given the opportunity to examine the history of the evolution of American warfare from the perspective of the pivotal role the historic Hudson River Valley played. The course is designed so that by the end of the course students will be able to analyze and understand all aspects of war in America.
My involvement in the course started long before the students even arrived on campus. As a Psychology and Special Education major, I was more than happy to help; It’s great practice for my future! There was a lot of organizing to do to ensure that things ran smoothly. The class was split into five separate groups each with their own team name and leader. My job in all of this was primarily to make sure that when they students arrived, each team would have all the materials they needed to be successful. This required a lot of copying, stapling, and sticky notes, but in the end, each team had everything they needed in a folder with their names on it. As the course began, I formed personal connections with the students through talking to them at any chance I got. During the first week, I ate lunch with them in the dining hall between classes. Through talking to them one-on-one, I learned what their interests were, why they took the course, and what they hoped to get out of it. Sharing this information with the professors ensured that the course was a unique experience for the students. During the first week, students visited sites such as Philipsburg Manor, Fort Montgomery, and took a full-day trip to West Point where they were given a tour by West Point Tours. Throughout the second week, students traveled to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, Springwood, the home of FDR, and the accompanying museum, Val-Kill, and finally the encampment at the Payne Mansion.
The cumulation of the course for both staff and students was an overnight trip to the Marist’s historic Col. Oliver Hazard Payne Estate in Esopus, home to the Raymond A. Rich Institute for Leadership Development. In partnership with the Living History Education Foundation, Marist professors took the class of high schoolers on a trip back through history to experience what it was like for a Civil War soldier in the Hudson River Valley. Students dressed up in Civil War era military uniforms, learned how to pitch their own old-fashioned tents using canvas and wooden frames, cooked over a campfire, and shot off a real cannon. It was a unique experience and one that I wish I had in my history course. Being immersed in history was effective in teaching the students the parts of history you can’t get from reading a textbook; Were the soldiers hot during the summertime? How heavy were the coats they wore? What types of food did they eat? Where did they sleep? Exactly how loud is a cannon? With the help of our friends from the Living History Education Foundation, the students found the answers to all these questions and more.
Overall, the course certainly met its objectives this year. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer week for field trips and outdoor learning activities. Students walked away knowing more about the history of war in America and especially about the role the Hudson River Valley played.
-Gabi Perpignand, Frank T. Bumpus Intern