Dundalk Students Use High-Tech Methods to Study History

Events of 200 years ago come alive with the touch of a stylus on a smart board.

With local school names like General John Stricker Middle School and Battle Monument School, it made perfect sense to celebrate Defenders Day and the 198th anniversary of the successful defense of Fort McHenry at Charlesmont Elementary School.

The poignant flag-raising ceremony held on the school's lawn Friday morning was followed by a demonstration of the newly-launched War of 1812 virtual education resource center, warof1812.thinkport.org.

Fifth-grade students, in creating a timeline of the Battle of North Point, were among the first students in Maryland to take advantage of the resource offered by Maryland Public Television.

A Star-Spangled Banner Day

Under a bright blue sky, National Park Service representatives from Fort McHenry, elected leaders, school guests and Charlesmont third-, fourth- and fifth-graders participated in a flag-raising ceremony that included a short but enthusiastic lesson on the Battle of North Point.

Fort McHenry's Ranger Vince Vaise, well-known in the area for his enthusiastic approach to historical interpretation, told the students about a bit of the history in their back yards.

He led the students in several cheers of "huzzah" as he talked about the defense of the North Point peninsula, which slowed down the British troops and bought a little bit of time for the defense of Baltimore.

A case of nerves saw Boy Scouts start to raise the American flag upside-down, but they quickly saw their error and fixed it.

A nearby teacher consoled the scouts and told them it was not uncommon for nerves to cause such a mistake. It isn't often that the students raise their flag in front of a United States senator, a state delegate and the head of Maryland Public Television, among other guests — let alone half of their school peers.

Star-Spangled Learning

After the flag ceremony, fifth-graders filed in to the school's computer lab where they gave a demonstration of an online lesson on the Battle of North Point.

Having already completed a timeline of the War of 1812 on previous days, the students were challenged to create a similar synopsis of the Battle of North Point.

Using a smart board that projected the lesson so all could see it, students went to the board to show their prowess on the technology and to work through the lesson.

The online War of 1812 site is available via Thinkport.org, a partnership between Maryland Public Television and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education that receives funding from the U.S. Department of education.

"Thinkport is an exciting project because it demonstrates how students will learn in the future using interactive techniques that will help the understand and experience what the War of 1812 was really like and why it was so important to our nation," U.S. Senator Ben Cardin said in a statement. "This new learning tool is funded by the Department of Education as a way to help history come alive for our students."

At the flag ceremony, Cardin told students that the Thinkport lessons are designed to teach the students in a manner to which they can relate, using technology that is second nature to them.

Education and MPT officials hope the War of 1812 lessons will be used by students, teachers and parents across the country and the globe as the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812 plays out through 2015.

At Charlesmont, the lessons were received with enthusiasm and excitement.

Students are excited about history because the lessons are "interactive and fun,"Charlesmont teacher Kelly Martin said in a statement.

"Everything I need to teach is right here in one place, including primary resource documents like letters or journals from the war."

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