Teaching Military Geoscience in the Twenty-first Century Classroom: Virtual Field Explorations of the Gettysburg Battlefield

  • W. Lee BeattyEmail author
  • Candace L. Kairies-Beatty
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Military Geosciences book series (AMG)


Access to the internet in today s classrooms has opened the door to a variety of new pedagogies that enhance learning in the geosciences while being easily adopted with minimal investment. Web-based virtual tours, explorable gigapixel panoramas, GIS and Google Fusion Tables allow users access to a wealth of information for conducting in-depth investigations and analyses of locations that are impractical to visit due to time or budgetary constraints. Several of these emerging techniques have been combined to bring field investigations of battlefield terrain into the classroom through virtual fieldwork. The Battle of Gettysburg, the largest ever fought in North America, was significantly influenced by the topography and geology of the farmland surrounding the small Pennsylvania town. This makes the battlefield an excellent venue for teaching the impacts of geology and landscapes on military operations. Several Gettysburg-based projects have been developed to introduce concepts of military geoscience to students and the public and integrate virtual fieldwork into the classroom. One virtual tour of the battlefield ( utilizes a traditional webpage platform to explore the effects of geology and topography on the fighting, while another ( uses the unique interactive environment of Google Earth, with traverses, annotations, and immersive high-resolution panoramas that give the user a soldier’s-eye view of the terrain. In-depth investigations of the battlefield can be conducted in the classroom with rock samples (both physical samples and 3D scans), topographic maps, explorable gigapixel petromicrographs, and geolocated GigaPan panoramas of the battlefield ( Students are provided samples representing the prominent rocks of the Gettysburg area and topographic maps with marked field stops. They orient themselves using Google Earth, make field observations (including locations of outcrops, weathering patterns of rocks, and topography), and identify rocks in outcrop. After compiling their data and creating a geologic map, they investigate how geology and topography affected the strategies of the Union and Confederate armies and the heavy casualties suffered by both sides. By creating interactive environments, these new tools promote learning through experience and exploration rather than memorization.


Gettysburg GigaPan Google earth Virtual fieldwork U.S. civil war Battlefield geology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeoscienceWinona State UniversityWinonaUSA

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