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Award-Winning Film for Schoolchildren

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

National Park News

Dover, Tennessee—Kids always have heroes, but you’d never think that they’d chose a Civil War soldier or nurse, or even a runaway slave as a hero, now would you? Well, you might if you were an elementary or middle school student who’s seen Fort Donelson: A Place for Heroes, a new film created by the Tennessee Renaissance Center, Dickson, Tennessee, and the Park Ranger staff at Fort Donelson National Battlefield.

This 22-minute film for students is now available for loan to classrooms across the nation. Comments from teachers and students who’ve seen the film have been overwhelmingly positive. Just this past year, the film was even awarded the Keeper of the Light Award for Interpretive Media, the highest honor bestowed by the National Park Service’s Division of Education & Interpretation for the Southeast Region. “This award means so much to the park staff members who struggled to secure funding and thought the idea to develop a film about Fort Donelson for schoolchildren was just a dream,” said Park Superintendent Steven McCoy.

The partnership with the Tennessee Renaissance Center began in 2001. Producer David Van Hooser and Production Manager Ken Tucker worked with the park staff to write and develop the film. Making a film about a national park isn’t a new idea—but it is if you’re trying to promote American heroes and how their stories intertwine with the 1862 battles at Forts Henry, Heiman, and Donelson.

In addition, the park staff wanted a film that was “fast-paced, packed with information, but one that left kids with a sense of purpose about Fort Donelson. We had to provide an answer for that question: so why do I need to know about this Civil War battle?” according to Park Ranger Susan Hawkins. Hawkins, along with fellow Park Ranger Deborah Austin, had the idea for this film, but didn’t think that it would ever be produced. Luckily, with generous funding support from the Jackson Foundation and a 2003 Parks As Classrooms grant, plus patience and expertise from the producers at the Tennessee Renaissance Center, this idea finally became a reality. “We have strong desire to offer a well-balanced park program, and this video augments our programming. It’s certainly nice to know that we were part of a process that will keep history alive in our schools,” said Park Ranger Austin.

This film is just one part of the park’s comprehensive programming called Parks As Classrooms. This National Park Service program, launched in 2002, has three components: traveling trunks, Ranger programs at the battlefield, and of course, the 22-minute video. Last year, the battlefield added Parks in Classrooms, offering another avenue for schools to connect students to the park’s resources and history. With Parks in Classrooms, Park Rangers visit classrooms and help students learn more about the battlefield by exploring topics like Civil War history, Underground Railroad stories, and soldier life. Programs are interactive, curriculum-based, and developed in cooperation with local teachers.

Fort Donelson: A Place for Heroes, curriculum materials, and Ranger Programs are free and available upon request. If you’re interested in scheduling a program or Ranger visit to your classroom, visit our website, or contact the Education Staff at 931-232-5706.

The public is invited to share the enthusiasm about the new film and attend special showings on September 2, 3, & 4, 2006. Park staff will also be available to answer questions about the Parks As Classrooms programs and schedule school visits. The Eastern National Bookstore, located in the park’s Visitor Center, will offer special discounts on books and materials for classroom teachers.

For more information, please contact the Ranger staff at 931-232-5706.


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