That's when I started collecting everything I could on a Fort Ticonderoga page on our class website. I know people who diligently search as I did will find my collection to be useful. In addition, now, there will be a short explanation of the titles provided by fort staff to selected and prospective educators. Even if Rich and Tim don't ever use this article for Fort Ticonderoga directly, I hope it will increase the number of applicants and give a boost to the excitement of participants arriving on site.
Here's what I came up with:
At the Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute, mysteries are solved. Shortly after being selected for the institute, you will receive a message to give you a schedule. You will also receive a list of the speakers and facilitators for your week at the property.
But that’s about all you’re going to be given ahead of time.
The titles in your schedule will fascinate you and intrigue you, but they will only add to the questions you may still hold in the back of your mind:
How do I get there?
Will I get to touch things?
What is a “bateau experience”?
How much homework will there be?
Is this for real?
That’s where I come along. As a 2019 graduate of the Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute, I am now considered the world’s foremost expert on the subject. I know from experience that you still have questions, and for three months, you will watch all the online videos, make all the keyword searches on the internet, and you will find and read all of the blog posts made by former participants (Good luck with all of that, by the way!). Perhaps that builds your anticipation for the actual visit: if so, ignore everything below this paragraph. Turn back now, because I may be about to blow the lid off of the FTTI mystery.
Or maybe gently peel back a layer or two.
You may be fortunate enough to arrive a day early or stay a day late. I highly recommend that you do, but keep in mind: that extra day will be at your own expense. You’ll gain entry into the fort by dropping names, but you will need to find your own affordable lodging, which can be tricky. Many of the hotel or B&B choices in the area can be quite costly, and if you don’t get your booking in early, you may have to look at options that lie a couple of hours away.
Then there is the issue of driving. Rental cars in this part of the country are ridiculously expensive from what I was used to, and satellite navigation for the week adds to the price. Keep in mind, this is the mountains and forests of Vermont and New York, and you may not always have a phone connection for directions. That said, if you are like me, you will certainly appreciate the beauty of our nation along your drive. You may even find some roadside markers or, in my case, a lovely old cemetery with Revolutionary and Civil War graves along your route. Don’t hesitate to turn around and visit these if you have the time. Of course, if you’re taking the train, please don’t ask the engineer to stop so you can sightsee.
The extra day option will allow you to leisurely visit the artifact and hands-on exhibits at the fort, and not be at the mercy of trying to do everything during the a restroom break from your classroom sessions. On this day, as well as others throughout the week, be sure to plan for the weather. It could be sunny in July, and especially if you are going to watch a reenactment, the day could call for sunblock. In the event of rain, pack yourself an umbrella or poncho. During my own week, we experienced a variety of weather patterns, and some even felt the need for a light jacket. All of this is on the packing list you will be sent, but it bears repeating.
You are likely to enjoy an early morning atop Mount Defiance. A little low cloud cover might add to the ambiance of looking down on Lake Champlain and the La Chute River. Get yourself a "bird's eye" view of the fort on the other side of the water and imagine the importance of this water to the travels of 17th, 18th, and 19th century explorers, pioneers, and soldiers. Get your bearings while you’re up there. It’s a great way to start your week.
Get another point of view (a "duck's eye" view) of the situation by taking a cruise of this part of the lake aboard the Carillon, a 1920s replica canal boat. There is not a bad seat on this cruise, but if you want to see the sonar of wreckage and artifacts on the lake bottom, you’ll need to sit up front. Sit in the back, and you’ll be able to appreciate a 360-degree view. Like your visit to Mount Defiance, you’re getting a better idea of the topography of this important setting. You’ll hear all kinds of information about the shoreline, landing and launching areas, and the locations of historical events. You’ll hear those familiar names of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. You’ll see the remains of a Revolutionary bridge, sunken railroad cars, and maybe even a shipwreck. I will warn you, though, that even if you take pictures of all of these places, you won’t remember which picture is which place or who was in that spot 250 years ago. Still, don’t spend a lot of your time taking notes, or you will miss the moments of awe that accompany this cruise.
One of the greatest indoor experiences will take place in a secret location, in a great underground bunker of security. After signing the necessary waiver…OK, so maybe none of that is true, but then again maybe it is. At any rate, you, the history-loving educator of tomorrow, will love getting to reach in elbow-deep with some artifacts and documents. These items change from year to year and are chosen to coordinate with the topic of the year’s institute theme, so I’m afraid what you will see, what you will hold, and what you touch will remain a mystery until you enter the room with the curator. You will be told the rules, and you will be able to pick things up. We were even allowed to turn the pages of some of Ticonderoga’s extensive collection pieces. Savor the moment, and be sure to give someone your camera so you can prove all of this to your friends and students when you get back to the real world and the 21st century.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, there may be a day when your crew gets to have an even closer look at the lake’s surface. Return to the dock and take your seat on the bateau (Remember to grab a life jacket!). There’s just enough for our 12 educators along with two costumed interpreters. Maybe you will be fortunate enough to operate one of the four sweeps (long oars) to propel your crew onto Lake Champlain and around the Ticonderoga peninsula. You may be surprised to see how quickly the boat will make it’s way to the La Chute River, which connects Lake Champlain with the higher-elevated Lake George on the other side of Mount Defiance. You may also be surprised to see that the weather can change and forecasts are not always accurate. You may round the corner and row through the reeds and moss of the river’s mouth to see lightning in the distance and rain streaks up ahead. I tell you this to help you understand that you need to pack some shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting a little more than a little bit damp.
Another set of activities may include time with the historic trades. Here are moments when you will rotate through and try your hand at some of the daily activities of the soldiers inhabiting the fort during the year of your institute’s focus. We sat with interpreters as they aided us in stitching uniform material, as they helped us bind shoe leather, as they allowed us to drive the yoked cattle, and as they helped us hand-saw one of the rockers for a new bateau.
Take a walk up the road apiece to see the battlefield at the Heights of Carillon. Stand atop the earthen ridges and envision the trenchwork as it would have been in the days of Montcalm, Rogers, Arnold, Allen, and Knox. Wonder at the trees that stand on the ground. Imagine the artifacts not yet excavated. Appreciate the lives and sacrifices of soldiers on both sides of the line.
Even walks from place to place can offer rich moments. You will appreciate some of the everyday offerings of Fort Ticonderoga. You can get some beautiful photos in the King’s Garden. You will see some prime examples of artillery. With a little imagination, you will find yourself emotionally connecting with a moment of history.
Of course, in between artillery and musket demonstrations (day and night), your time in the air-conditioned classroom, and the activities, you’re going to want to stop for lunch. Lunches are provided in the café, and there are some surprisingly unique and tasty selections from which to choose.
Finally, you can expect the Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute to fill you with knowledge inside the classroom every day. Experts and scholars will lead you through presentations, lectures, and conversations that will really get your gears turning. You will have something to add, but there will be times when your brain will be lit up with information and details you never knew about before your visit. You may even get all kinds of ideas for how to present the information in your classroom back home. Unfortunately, you will have to wait for the appropriate spot in your curricular timeline to actually deliver the lessons you create (or “borrow” from the other 11 teachers who feel the same anxiety).
Fort Ticonderoga might be a little off of the beaten path for many tourists, but you must be impressed with the extensive collection of militaria and personal artifacts in the collection. I suggest you view the “Speed Dating” videos offered on the fort’s YouTube channel and social media pages. Some of the items you will see are described in those videos, but are not part of the things shown to you during the institute.
That should do it. I’ve attempted to share some tips and answer some questions you may have regarding FTTI. I hope you’ll consider applying for this valuable experience if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider accepting the offer if you are been selected, and I pray you treasure the experience as much I do.
on my Fort Ticonderoga page.