Wednesday, Dec 14, 2011
Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets from John McDonogh High School in New Orleans and Chalmette High School in Chalmette practiced their interpretive skills and provided a sneak preview of January’s Battle of New Orleans anniversary at Chalmette Battlefield on December 10-11.
During the two-day rehearsal, JROTC cadets and rangers from Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and Natchez Trace Parkway dressed as 1815-era soldiers and civilians, fired muskets, and cooked over campfires as part of the battlefield’s “Recognizing Our Roots” student living history program.
This fall, 30 JROTC cadets joined the curriculum-based living history program to learn about the Battle of New Orleans, the last major battle of the War of 1812. Cadets took field trips, learned to handle muskets in 1815 military style, and attended lectures to prepare them for their roles as members of New Orleans’ free men of color battalions, volunteer Tennessee militiamen, or camp followers during the Battle of New Orleans anniversary event January 6-7, 2012.
The JROTC living history project began more than 10 years ago as a partnership between Orleans Parish Public Schools and Jean Lafitte. In 2001 the park and the program received a “Keeper of the Light” award from the Southeast Regional Office of the National Park Service; the award recognized the JROTC program as the first of its kind in the United States. Improving upon the original idea, “Recognizing Our Roots” was the result of a 2010 National Park Service Youth Partnership Program grant designed to invigorate the program by incorporating technology as a tool for learning history. Students documented their experiences with photos and videos then created multi-media journals using the information they learned in the program. Their projects are showcased on their student wiki which can be accessed via the Jean Lafitte website at http://www.nps.gov/jela/photosmultimedia/investigators-in-action.htm.
The Recognizing Our Roots Living History Program provides an opportunity to connect underserved communities to the park’s cultural and historical resources by involving youth in a hands-on living history program. The program educates and inspires a new generation of park stewards by making history more relevant. As one McDonogh cadet remarked on a recent field trip “This is much better than sitting in a classroom. It’s a great way to learn history!”