|Children from across the state have a chance to visit the Stones River National Battlefield from the comfort of their classrooms thanks to MTSU's Instructional Technology Support Center.
Park Rangers Jim Lewis and John McKay present hour-long programs to a studio audience full of children. The videotaped programs are broadcast by satellite to more than 10 county school systems in Middle Tennessee, Knoxville and Huntsville, Ala. Copies are also available to schools for the low-price of a blank DVD or VHS tape and self-addressed envelope.
"Over the past three years, we have doubled each year the number of students that we can reach," Lewis said. ITSC has produced five educational programs about the battlefield for students and teachers.
"We can help them with their educational outreach," said Connie Schmidt, the director of MTSU's Instructional Technology Support Center.
ITSC has partnered with more than 100 different organizations since beginning the program in 1998. The center works to fit programming into the state's educational curriculum standards and provide teaching strategies for new and old teachers, Schmidt said. Programs even offer in-service training credit for teachers in some school systems.
Last year, 22 counties statewide had one school watch at least one program, Schmidt said. Programs are also aired on educational access channels in Murfreesboro, Nashville and Franklin.
"Because we're on the Internet now anyone with a high-speed connection can watch," Schmidt explained. "We had someone watching from Alaska because her granddaughter was in a program."
"For our purpose, it has the potential to reach into classrooms statewide," Lewis explained.
"In rural counties, it's hard for them to come up to the battlefield (and)… schools from eastern or western Tennessee are not going to come up. It's out of their reach," Schmidt explained.
"One of the best ones was 'Interview with a Civil War Infantryman'," Lewis said. In the program, Lewis dressed like a soldier, with McKay acting as a translator, to teach students about a day in the life of a soldier during the Civil War.
Another of Lewis' favorites, "Hands-on Archaeology and Artifacts at Stones River National Battlefield," provided students with an opportunity to learn what historic artifacts mean and how they can learn from diaries and other historic documents.
"It gives the kids the scene you want them to have in their mind while you're explaining things to them," Lewis said about using the battlefield as a backdrop for the presentations.
Another way the rangers reach students is with their Traveling Trunk. It's a box filled with educational materials – books, CDs, period equipment – that teachers can use to teach classes. They've also begun putting in copies of their presentations.
McKay and Lewis have also presented programs geared toward teaching teachers the educational benefits of the battlefield. They tie math, science, language and social studies into the teaching of history in ways that meet state educational curriculum standards.
For more information or to request a copy of a program, visit the Instructional Technology Support Center website at www.mtsu.edu/~itsc or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on educational opportunities at the battlefield, visit the center's website at www.nps.gov/stri/.