Welcome to Education at Preservation Virginia

Our Approach | Through people-first narratives, source and artifact selection, inclusive interpretation, as well as the immeasurable power of place at each of Preservation Virginia’s historic sites, students and teachers will refine their skills as historians, make connections from past to present, and have fun as they explore history where it happened. When students participate in Preservation Virginia’s school programs either in-person or virtually, we hope they expand their own interpretations of what studying history means. Students will experience how engaging the past can be and that learning from 18th century artifacts, running around in a field playing colonial kids games, cooking in the hearth kitchen, walking in the woods, digging in the dirt and hand-dyeing tea cloths is also studying history. We believe if kids have fun, they are more likely to make a memory, inspire continued interest in history and historic sites, and finally, promote lifelong learners and active citizenship.

Over 400 Years of History | The historic sites that Preservation Virginia owns and operates as public museums possess great local, regional, national, and international historical significance–spanning over 400 years! Across our sites, we can offer your students opportunities to learn about the English’s first landing in Virginia in 1607 and arrival of first enslaved Africans in 1619, the American Revolution, creating the new nation and the federal government, 19th and 20th century maritime history, as well as society, culture, politics, and slavery in the colonial through antebellum years, and so much more! Explore the following sections detailing each of our historic sites to find out the specific histories each site specializes in.

A Spectrum of Ways to Learn | At Preservation Virginia’s historic sites, we welcome students of different backgrounds and abilities. Our mission is to provide an enjoyable learning experience for every student, and as such we strive to provide thoughtful accommodation and a wide range of sensory activities. Tactile objects, an audio tour and experienced tour guides all contribute toward our goal of inclusive education. Simply let us know in advance what we can do to help your students get the most out of their trip to one of our historic sites.

Explore this page to find out more about what learning opportunities Preservation Virginia provides across our five historic sites for both students, teachers and adults.

Ways to Learn

Historic Site Field Trips

  • John Marshall House
    • Constructed in 1790 as the oldest brick house in Richmond, Virginia, the Great Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall (1755-1835), resided here with his family, and over 60 enslaved people until 1835. A Federal era home in an urban setting, the John Marshall House is furnished in 50% Marshall family objects. Join us for tours, activities and programs related to:
      • Civics, the Supreme Court and the Constitution
      • American Revolution and the new nation
      • Urban living and urban slavery
      • Learning from objects as primary sources
    • Program Highlights
      • “Liberty and the Law” joint field trip option with historic St. John’s Church which examines how Patrick Henry viewed liberty as he gave his famous speech in St. John’s in 1775, as well as how John Marshall viewed the law during his time as Chief Justice. Students will then consider what liberty and the law mean to us today.
  • Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown
    • Welcome to Scotchtown, the 1719 plantation that is most well-known for serving as Patrick Henry’s main residence between 1771 and 1778. The only originally-standing home of Patrick Henry, here the “orator of the American Revolution” conceived his most influential revolutionary ideas, including his famous “Liberty or Death” speech. Scotchtown is uniquely positioned to explore the “American Paradox” of liberty and slavery. Join us for tours, activities, and programs related to:
      • Plantation life and economy in colonial Virginia
      • Historic trades and crafts demonstrations
      • American Revolution and the new nation
      • Archaeology
    • Program Highlights
      • Digging Up The Past: Archaeology at Scotchtown
  • Bacon’s Castle
    • Completed in 1665, Bacon’s Castle is the oldest brick home still-standing in North America. The Tidewater Virginia mansion gained its name when it was occupied by rebels during Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. Enslaved labor was first introduced to Bacon’s Castle in 1673, making the property the longest continual site of enslavement in the United States. For over 350 years, Bacon’s Castle has stood at the center of a small community in Surry, Virginia, and today, our student tours and programs reflect the events, society, culture, and more from that expanse of Tidewater Virginia history. Join us for tours, activities, and programs related to:
      • Plantation life and economy in colonial Virginia
      • Historic trades and crafts demonstrations
      • Bacon’s Rebellion
      • History of indentured and enslaved labor
      • Archaeology
      • Jamestown government of colonial Virginia
    • Program Highlights
      • Trash Talking History: Bacon’s Rebellion Travelling Trunk
  • Smith’s Fort
    • The manor house at Smith’s Fort exists as a beautiful example of 18th century Georgian architecture, but the land itself dates back to 1609. The colonists at Jamestown first envisioned a military fort built at Smith’s Fort in defense of Jamestown, but the fort remained unfinished. See the remnants during your visit to the site. Although inhabited for thousands of years by Indigenous People, by the mid-seventeenth century this property was part of a greater tract of land that was said to have been owned by John Rolfe. Upon his death it was inherited by Thomas Rolfe, his son with Matoaka (Pocahontas).
    • Join us for tours, activities, and programs related to:
      • Colonial plantation life and society
      • Indigenous history of Tidewater Virginia
      • History and significance of Pocahontas’s marriage to John Rolfe
      • Learning from objects as primary sources
    • Program Highlights
      • Piecing Together Pocahontas Virtual Program
  • Cape Henry Lighthouse
    • Constructed in 1792, Cape Henry Lighthouse is the brainchild of President George Washington and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Cape Henry is the first federally funded lighthouse in the country and the 4th oldest lighthouse still standing in the United States today. Built with the same Aquia sandstone as much of Washington, D.C., the lighthouse guided sea travelers to safety for almost 100 years. Cape Henry possesses 194 steps and offers an incredible view of the Chesapeake Bay. The Cape Henry Lighthouse site is home to over 400 years of history. Join us for tours, activities, and programs related to:
      • First Landing of the English, 1607
      • STEAM programming, including lighthouses, maritime history, ecosystems and life science, oceanography, weather, weather patterns, and light, flora and fauna, and much more.
      • Military history from colony to commonwealth
    • Program Highlights
      • Life of a Lighthouse Keeper
      • Stories by the Sea

Virtual Learning

In 2021, Preservation Virginia launched a virtual learning initiative which today offers thirty virtual programs and serves students nationwide and in Canada. Our 35-45 minute lessons address themes from each of our five historic sites—spanning over 400 years of history, civics, and STEAM!

Like all of our student experiences, our live virtual programs led by our museum educators emphasize human narratives, source and artifact selection, and help students exercise skills in historic inquiry, source analysis, evaluating change over time, and more.

We provide our content on virtual learning platforms, Streamable Learning and Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. You can find us on those sites to view and book, or reach out to us directly to schedule a program for your class.

View our full catalog of virtual programs here.

Classroom Outreach

In addition to serving students virtually and at our sites, we also are more than happy to come to you! We can visit your classroom and present lessons, hands-on activities, or historic demonstrations. Additionally, we can share resources and lead historical analysis and inquiry activities, or provide you one of our Traveling Trunks with prepared curriculum and props for you to instruct.

A Preservation Virginia outreach program can be a great way to supplement your curriculum or as a content review during end-of-term evaluations. View our outreach program catalog, including pricing and planning information, here.

Scout and Homeschool Programming

Youth Scouting groups across Virginia find Preservation Virginia’s historic sites as ideal destinations to earn skills or content badges, participate in community service projects, and much more. While we are generally able to accommodate your visit, past Scouting programs, partnerships, and projects include:

  • Earned Democracy Badges at the John Marshall House
  • Completed community service projects at Cape Henry Lighthouse
  • Earned Citizenship Badges at Bacon’s Castle

Please contact us if one of our museum sites can support your Scouting program.

Preservation Virginia welcomes homeschooling families, groups, and communities to participate in our school programs all year long, but we also provide dedicated Homeschool Days in the Fall and Spring each year. On these days, we invite homeschooled students to engage in hands-on activities, historical demonstrations and investigations, and much more!

Fall 2024 Homeschool Day dates are coming soon!

Summer Camp

History Day Camp at Scotchtown

Learning doesn’t end when the traditional school year does! Preservation Virginia offers summer day camp for young historians at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown. Campers will participate in hands-on activities, historical demonstrations and investigations, make-n-take crafts, as well as enjoy summer camp favorites. Registration for 2024 day camp on July 22-24 for 11-14 year old’s is still open! Check back in spring 2025 for next year’s camp registration and information!

In addition to hosting our own day camp, Preservation Virginia historic sites are also excellent destinations for other local camps planning educational excursions for their campers! Please reach out if you are interested in planning a visit.

Teacher Workshops and Adult Learning

Preservation Virginia offers nationwide teachers dedicated opportunities to learn from our talented team of museum educators about the 400 years of history and civics that our five museum sites address through interpretation, tours, primary source workshops, and more.

Summer Teacher Seminar with Stratford Hall Historic Preserve

Preservation Virginia is proud to partner with Stratford Hall Historic Preserve in an annual teacher seminar addressing themes of colonial and Early America. Teachers are invited to a four-day seminar in residence at Stratford Hall in beautiful Montross, Virginia with day-trips to and presentations and resources from Preservation Virginia’s historic sites.

Return to this page in early winter 2024 for the 2025 summer seminar application.

Past summer seminar themes include:

  • Founding Women (2024)
  • Religion & Spirituality from Colony to Commonwealth (2023)

Invitation to Collaborate
Preservation Virginia is always happy to collaborate with other institutions and partners to provide social studies teachers professional development opportunities. If you have an idea for a partnership with Preservation Virginia, please contact Education Manager, Meika Downey, at mdowney@preservationvirginia.org

Adult Learning Opportunities
Preservation Virginia regularly provides lectures, presentations, and tours to adult learning organizations in our communities. If you are interested in scheduling one of our museum educators to address your adult group or class either in-person at your location, at one of our historic sites, or virtually, please contact us!

Internships & Volunteering

Interested in volunteering with or completing an undergraduate/graduate internship with Preservation Virginia Education? Reach out to us here to learn about possible current or future opportunities.

Education interns complete a myriad of projects and activities that not only support educational initiatives at Preservation Virginia’s historic sites, but that also provide opportunities for interns to learn new skills and grow their understanding of museum education and public history. As availability allows, we accept interns for fall, spring, or summer terms. Past internship projects include:

  • Researching, writing, and delivering virtual learning experiences for student audiences
  • Developing primary source analysis activities
  • Compiling educator resources
  • Supporting summer camp activities
  • Delivering tours and presentations for student audiences
  • Conduct primary source research
  • Submit articles to the Preservation Virginia blog
  • Participate in interpretive staff professional training
  • Attend and support teacher workshops
  • Create visitor experiences and interpretive programs
  • Gain exposure to other fields in public history such collections, archives, and preservation

While Preservation Virginia does not currently offer paid Education internships, we will be happy to comply with any requirements colleges may have for students to receive academic credit. Additionally, interns will receive a one-year Student Membership to Preservation Virginia.

Contact Us

Stay in touch with Preservation Virginia Education by signing up for our quarterly Education e-newsletter to learn about school programs, teacher workshops, student resources, and more! 

Have additional questions? Contact us directly at education@preservationvirginia.org

Online Educational Resources

Resource Packets and Activities

Chief Justice John Marshall Landmark Supreme Court Decisions Crossword Study Guide

This engaging activity covers the Marshall landmark court cases with a study tool designed for AP US History, AP Government and Politics, and 12th grade government.

Political Parties and Personalities of the New Nation

This fun activity helps students identify and internalize definitions and explanations of key political parties, concepts and people from the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the United States.

Topics: American history, early America/the new nation, political parties/ideologies, founding fathers

Virginia Standards of Learning Sections: VS.5b; VS.6a, b; USI.6b, c

Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review Resource Packet

This packet and worksheet describe the significance and impact of Chief Justice John Marshall’s ruling in the Supreme Court case, Marbury v. Madison (1803), which established the authorities and separation of powers of the federal branches of government.

The material covers Virginia Standards of Learning components CE.1a, f, h; CE.6b; CE.9b; VUS.1a, e, f, g; VUS.5d; GOVT.1a, c, d; GOVT.7a, b; GOVT.10b for grades 7th-12th.


Take Into Account: Understanding Rural and Urban Life in Early Virginia from Household Ledgers

Using “receipts” from the 18th and 19th centuries, this packet and worksheet describe living in the Early American Republic by exploring the dichotomy of rural and urban life through the experiences of John Marshall and Patrick Henry between 1771 and 1795, and by extension, the realities of urban and rural slavery in the post-colonial era.

Covers Virginia Standards of Learning VS.1a, b, c, d, e, f, h; VS.4 a, d, e; US.1a, b, c, d, e, f, h; US.1b, d; for grades 4th and 5th.

Educational Videos

History Where it Happened Series: Marbury v. Madison at the John Marshall House

This video pairs with the Marbury v. Madison resource packet and helps introduce students to the significance and impact of Chief Justice John Marshall’s ruling in the Supreme Court case, Marbury v. Madison (1803), which established the authorities and separation of powers of the federal branches of government.

This video covers Virginia Standards of Learning components CE.1a, f, h; CE.6b; CE.9b; VUS.1a, e, f, g; VUS.5d; GOVT.1a, c, d; GOVT.7a, b; GOVT.10b .