Surviving at Valley Forge

“It was very cold and we found out that living at Valley Forge was very hard.”

george washington

General George Washington addresses his troops.

Recently the fifth grade students from West Side Christian School, in collaboration with Blandford Nature Center, recreated and interpreted some of the key events at Valley Forge. Valley Forge is where General George Washington trained the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War during the winter of 1777-1778. The students caught a glimpse of what George Washington and his troops endured during their harsh winter encampment.

“Today I went into Valley Forge, where I had to survive in the wilderness.”

valley forge

fire1

West Side Christian School’s nature preserve served as the setting and the weather created the context for the hardships that the soldiers had to endure. The fifth grade students, like the soldiers, had to work hard in order to survive. Each group was required to build a shelter (tarp and rope,) drink tea (melt snow over a fire,) track animals (which equated to a provided food source) and cook a “fire-cake” over a campfire.

“I can’t believe that the soldiers could live through that for five months!”

fire cake


Soldiers received inadequate supplies of meat and bread, some getting their only nourishment from “fire cake,” a tasteless mixture of flour and water.

“Surviving at Valley Forge wasn’t easy.  We had to make hot water, tea, fire, and find animal tracks and make fire cakes.  If you think that is hard, try going back to 1777 and walk through the cold winter and get ready to fight.  They did the stuff we did but without good supplies.  They didn’t have nice winter clothes like us.  My toes and fingers were about to fall off! We are so blessed to have a warm house and warm clothes.”

camp4

History came alive for the students and the outdoors created context for some lasting learning moments. In addition to delving deeper into their understanding of the historical event, the outdoors became a powerful tool to provide the students with motivation, excitement and wonder,  as well as lasting learning moments integrated through this interdisciplinary experience.

“I am sure that it was worse in the real Valley Forge. The experience was amazing and the best part is that we SURVIVED!”hunting2

This is yet another example of how we as educators at Blandford Nature Center have witnessed first- hand how outdoor education enriches, vitalizes, and complements all content areas of school curriculum by means of first-hand observation and direct experience out-of-doors.   We are enthusiastic about growing outdoor educational experiences for our community that will give students more opportunities to take their learning outside!

A special thanks goes out to Phil Warners, director of outdoor education at Camp Roger, for sharing contributions to this outdoor learning experience.

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