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Civil War Anniversary Spurs Educational Activities

Talk about a teachable moment. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and there will surely be no shortage of activities under way to commemorate—and educate.

Just this morning I learned about a couple of things.

First, high school students who know their Civil War history will get a chance to compete for a college scholarship as part of an initiative announced today by education publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and HISTORY, the cable network. The National Civil War Student Challenge, a timed online competition, will award more than $30,000 in college scholarships, including $15,000 for the grand prize winner.

The online quiz will be conducted April 7-9, with the 30 top-scoring finalists invited to take an in-school final exam.

Second, the National Park Service has developed a new online feature called the Civil War Reporter. It will offer daily Twitter dispatches from Beglan O'Brien, a fictitious Civil War era correspondent, who will chronicle the people and events of the war.

"We hope this 'real-time' reporting will give modern day Americans a unique insight into the war as O'Brien follows the story wherever it takes him, from assignments embedded with Union and Confederate soldiers, to covering President Lincoln at Gettysburg," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a press release.

The National Park Service also has a variety of other activities planned to commemorate the 150th anniversary.

Finally, last week I learned that the National Council for History Education has a national conference fast approaching with the theme, "The Causes and Consequences of Civil Wars." The March 31-April 2 conference will be held in Charleston, S.C., not far from where the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1861.

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