Academy News

Changing Lives

The National History Academy promises to be a life-changing experience for the high school students who participate.   Our goal and expectation is that for the rest of their lives, participants will look back on this five-week intensive experience and say it was the moment that their interest in American history became a life-long passion.

The Academy is based on two innovative approaches to making history exciting: the case method of teaching in place of traditional classroom instruction, and a heavy reliance on first-hand experiences at the nation’s premier historic landmarks.

The Harvard Business School case method is a teaching approach that uses decision-forcing cases to put students in the role of people who were faced with difficult decisions at some point in the past. The case study method of teaching is highly recognized and applauded for creating an immersive, student-led discussion. In early 2017, HBS Professor David Moss published Democracy: A Case Study, which applies the HBS case method to the study of history. He is currently working with high-school history teachers to help them utilize the method. The Academy is very proud to have the active leadership and involvement of Professor Moss.

Each week at the Academy will focus on a different case. The five topics will be: Madison and the Constitution; Washington, Hamilton and the National Bank; Lincoln and Secession; Reconstruction; and Civil Rights. Professor Moss will personally lead the first case and accompany the Academy students to Montpelier (Madison’s Home).

As an important component of their study, the participants will visit and experience first-hand the places where history was made. They will begin at the National Archives with the documents that are at the very heart of our democracy – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation. Famed business leader, patriotic philanthropist, and lover of American history, David Rubenstein, will be the keynote speaker at the National Archives to open the Academy.

In successive weeks, the student will visit sites in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. Among these will be Williamsburg, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Gunston Hall, Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg, et al.

Students will have the opportunity to develop their skills in the discipline of history. Through written assignments, oral presentations and group activities, they will explore history in a way that is possible only in this rich historical landscape.

Foxcroft School, our home base for these five weeks, is a private boarding school in the heart of Loudoun County, Virginia, near Middleburg. Founded in 1914, Foxcroft continues to instill high purpose, integrity, leadership, understanding and empathy in students, in addition to “mens sana in corpore sano” – a healthy mind in a healthy body. Foxcroft’s beautiful 500-acre campus offers traditional summer activities such as tennis, swimming, hiking, jogging and other recreation, as well as modern amenities such as air conditioned dormitories and excellent food service.

The whole Academy experience is organized to instill a deep appreciation and understanding of American history. Students will be exposed to “doing” history in a whole new way – and will recognize the power and personal impact of learning that goes beyond the classroom. In addition to first-class presentations by noted historians and a structure that relies heavily on master teachers as group leaders and college history majors as counselors, the real classroom is the region itself—the first settlement at Jamestown, Jefferson’s Monticello, Madison’s Montpelier, the battlefield of Gettysburg and the other sites where our nation’s history was made.   This is truly learning by being there.

The National History Academy is designed to produce three learning outcomes:

  1. To deepen the appreciation and understanding of the American experience
  2. To encourage civic engagement and citizenry
  3. To recognize the importance of visiting and preserving historic sites

The greatest impact will, of course, be on the students, counselors and master teachers involved in the Academy. But a ripple effect will occur by encouraging students to present their final projects at their home schools and to be ambassadors for preserving the nation’s most important historic sites. At the outset, the Academy will have 100 students. The plan is to expand to additional locations serving as many as 1,500 students annually. In addition, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground will encourage other members of the National Heritage Area program through the National Park Service to replicate similar programs throughout the country.