First in Business: Washington, Mount Vernon, and the New Nation

 “George Washington: the Businessman” is not a moniker that most students associate with our nation’s first President, but it is one of the most illuminating biographical aspects to understanding his ideas, hopes, and challenges for the young nation’s political and economic future. As a surveyor, farmer, and investor, Washington was constantly looking for opportunities to harness and manage natural resources and agricultural production. Through hands-on experiences at recreated 18th-century sites at Mount Vernon and written primary sources like account books, farm reports, and maps, participants can envision the changing modes of operation at Mount Vernon as Washington would have; democracy at work. In bringing to life his inventions, experiments, and investments, participants will be given the tools to integrate STEM and historical thinking into the classroom.

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George Washington at War: From Soldier to Commander in Chief

The United States was born in an age of war and revolution. The Seven Years' War and the American Revolution both serve as touchpoints for teaching about George Washington’s individual contributions and the broader impact of these conflicts on 18th-century society. From Washington’s own leadership challenges and opportunities, to the decisions individual men and women made to join the Patriot cause, the sessions during this program will help students understand the complexity and significance of war in the creation of the country.

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Leadership and Legacy: Lessons from George Washington

Recognized for his extraordinary leadership on the battlefield, and in the presidency, in his own lifetime, it is often hard to relate to the journey George Washington took to gain a reputation that inspired others in his success. Explore his story in his own words and in the opinions of his contemporaries to find new connections between Washington’s life and your students’ experiences. Tour the estate to “read” the only autobiography Washington ever wrote: the landscape and buildings at Mount Vernon and discover the ways George Washington’s leadership continues to inspire today’s citizens.  

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Martha Washington and the Women of the 18th Century

Martha Washington’s story, although unparalleled in many ways, provides a well-documented access point to a better understanding of the experiences available to women throughout the colonies and the newly formed nation. Participants will engage with diverse source materials, such as documents, images, and material culture, to teach about the lives of 18th-century women of all backgrounds and the impact they had on the founding of the United States. Find new ways to connect Martha Washington and her contemporaries to the broader subject of women’s history and topics of economic, political, social and cultural history.

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Slavery in George Washington’s World

George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon was also the residence of over 300 enslaved individuals whose lives, labor, and legacy helped shape the 18th century. Through new interpretations of written records and archaeological evidence, the individual narratives of Billy Lee, Priscilla, Hercules, Caroline Branham, and others create learning opportunities that can broaden students’ understanding of slavery. This program will explore the challenge of teaching slavery and race in today’s classroom. Primary sources will illuminate the choices enslaved people had, what their daily lives were like, and how Washington and those enslaved at Mount Vernon shaped each other’s lives on the estate and on the national stage.

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The Great Experiment: George Washington and the Founding of the U.S. Government

The Constitutional Convention, the ratification of the Constitution, and the first presidency are recognized as political milestones for George Washington and our nation’s founding. Explore the controversy, challenges, and opportunities of inventing a nation and the presidency in the context of the 18th century. Sessions at the Washington Library will highlight diverse primary sources, like artwork, place, and documents and model interactive activities that support student learning. Experiences at Washington’s historic Mount Vernon shape the complex portrayal of a man who embraced his responsibilities as a citizen, and whose contemporaries looked to him for leadership. 

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