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History Mobile brings Kentucky, Civil War history to Henry Clay High School students

(Photo from FCPS)

Henry Clay students took a step back in time when they stepped inside the HistoryMobile, parked behind their high school for daylong class rotations. That’s where they met Henry Clay the statesman, Union soldier Ben Buckner, Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan and other colorful characters from the past.
The Kentucky Historical Society’s mobile museum and learning lab, which is housed in a 45-foot tractor-trailer, featured interactive exhibits on the latest topic – “Torn Within and Threatened Without: Kentuckians and the Civil War Era.”
Broken into small groups, the students covered six stations ranging from pre- to post-war issues and developments. The truck was packed with information presented through graphic artwork, bulleted blurbs, touch-screen activities, historical artifacts such as a belt buckle and a silk sash, and various replicas including an officer’s sword.
“This can strengthen their research skills, writing skills and critical thinking,” said Warren Greer, a KHS education specialist who guided the half-hour tours.
Though most of the teens had studied the Civil War earlier in the school year or back in eighth grade, the exhibits did provide a useful review of major points like states’ sovereignty, free labor via slavery in the South and the fledgling industrial economy in the North. Through the lens of various individuals’ experiences, the students considered some difficult decisions Kentuckians faced during the Civil War. For instance, Confederate soldier Henry Lane Stone had friends and family on both sides.
“I didn’t realize how people were torn, with ties between different places, and that some Union people had slaves of their own,” sophomore Elijah Barnett said afterward.
Bria Williams, a junior, was also struck by the stories of Elijah Marrs, a slave who opted to join the Union army, and Ellen Wallace, a wealthy landowner whose politics and loyalties were divided.
“It helps you understand better than just by reading a book,” she said of the HistoryMobile. “You get a lot of information from the quotes (on the walls), and you can think about what happened and what were their choices.”
While the HistoryMobile focuses on content review at the high school level, younger students can also benefit as they learn to analyze source material, understand primary sources and do research to create their own comic books. Requests to KHS typically come from teachers in grades 4, 5 and 8, along with U.S. History classes.
“It’s a great opportunity and gives kids a look at how the history of Kentucky impacted the United States,” said Robbie Biddle, who brought his World Civ classes. “And being able to get up and move around, they’re taking charge of their learning.”

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