Educational Programing

A Letter to the Teacher
New Programs Coming Soon
Swine & Punishment: A New England Town Meeting.  Coming March 2018
ABC's of Fort Western Coming March 2018
Program Offerings at Old Fort Western
How We Know What We Know
Fort Western - A Three Century
Time Line of New England History
Life as a French & Indian War Era
Bartering at the Howard Store
Shopping in the 18th Century
Life in the 18th Century
School in Early New England
Revolution! Benedict Arnold's March Thru Maine

A Letter to the Teacher 
Dear Educator:

 DID YOU KNOW Fort Western Represents over 300 years of early New England and American history?

  • Next to Fort Western is the site of Cushnoc, the 1628-1649 Pilgrim Trading post that earned enough money for the Pilgrims to pay off their debt in England.
  • Fort Western is the oldest surviving wooden French and Indian War era garrison in North America; Fort Western was a private fort built by the Kennebec Proprietors and operated by the Province of Massachusetts under the command of Captain James Howard from 1754 until 1767.  It was a supply depot for Fort Halifax in Winslow about 16 miles up the Kennebec.
  • Fort Western was a staging area for Benedict Arnold’s army as they began their ill-fated March to Quebec in 1775
  • During the Revolution, the Savage Scouting Company lead by Captain Savage under the command of Col. William Howard was based out of Fort Western during 1778 and 1779.
  • Fort Western is the site of the first store on the middle and upper Kennebec; the S. & W. Howard Store, was located in the garrison building from 1767 until 1784 and catered to many of the founding fathers of the towns surrounding what was then Hallowell.
  • The Howard family purchased the Fort in 1767 and they and their descendants, lived in the garrison from 1770 until the 1850s.
  • Once sold out of the Howard Family in 1850 the garrison became a tenement providing living quarters for Augusta’s workforce during the Industrial Revolution.
  • Fort Western was renovated through the efforts of the Gannett Family (descendants of the Howards) from 1919 to 1922 and opened as a museum on July 4, 1922.

One of our primary goals is to educate the public as to the significance of Fort Western and its environs in Maine and American History.  Our programs take place in and around the 1754 garrison and outbuildings; and are designed to engage all the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.  We pride ourselves on being able to offer this hands-on programming that immerses students of all ages in life as it was lived during the 18th century.  We also pride ourselves on using all the available resources, i.e. written documentation (letters, journals, account books, correspondence, etc.), material culture (Howard Family objects and furniture passed down and donated as well as archaeological collections of Fort Western, Fort Halifax and Fort Richmond) and oral history (stories passed down through time) to ensure the interpretation we teach is the most accurate it can be.
Whether you are from a public or private school, homeschool, historical society, or library, our programs can be adapted to meet your needs.  If you have budgetary constraints or busing is an issue, many of our programs can be successfully delivered in the classroom.  Give us a call to see what we can do for you!
Come experience life in the 18th century at Old Fort Western!
Linda J. Novak, Director/Curator

 News from Fort Western


Coming in March 2018
Swine and Punishment: A New England Town Meeting
Grades 5 and Up
Participants will role play a town meeting based on the 1785 warrant for Hallowell, Maine to help them understand democracy in action. Prior to the Town Meeting, students will have an opportunity to discuss some of the “hot topics” in 1785 along the Kennebec, take their knowledge to make an informed decision, discuss action, and vote either by show of hands, yea or nay, or secret ballot. Students will be better able to understand what is meant by “your voice being heard” and the roles of citizens.

 Coming in May 2018
The ABC’s of Old Fort Western
Grades K and 1
articipants will go through the fort identifying objects that begin with each letter of the alphabet from A-Z.  Activities associated with these words will engage all their senses, sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

 Program Offerings at Fort Western

How We Know What We Know:
Grade 5-6 (basic concepts)
Grades 7 to 12 (in-depth concepts and analysis)
This program is designed to go through the process of interpreting history.  Students will explore how written documentation, material culture and oral history are used in collaboration to form a good basis for historic interpretation.  More specifically, this program allows the student to explore how we combine these three sources to understand how historians interpret history and how we learn about social, technological and economic change.  Please schedule two hours for this program; it begins in the Old Fort Western Learning Center in City Hall and ends with a mini tour of the fort.
The Participants will:
Handle and decipher written documents and learn the difference between primary and secondary sources.
Participate in a “word-of-mouth” oral exercise to discover the value and potential pitfalls of oral history.
Learn how material culture helps corroborate written documentation and oral history by:

  • Handling historic objects and using them to date chronologically.
  • Participating in an archaeological “dig-in-miniature” in order to analyze artifact assemblages and use them in conjunction with other material objects to learn about relative dating.

This program is geared to fifth grade and is done in a classroom setting in the Old Fort Western Learning Gallery.  If time permits there will be a brief tour of Fort Western and its environs but only if a two hour or more time block is scheduled.

Fort Western – A Three Century Time Line of New England History
Grades 4 and up.
This interactive time line is station based and takes the participant through the different periods of the Fort with an underlying focus on survival needs.  The site of the Pilgrim Trading Post at Cushnoc (1628-1649) is visited to learn about barter and early trade on the Kennebec River. The French & Indian War Era Fort (1754-1767) is visited to explain how the fort was necessary to allow settlement and economic stability of the region.  In a visit to The S & W Howard Store (1767-1807), how interdependence develops into a global economy stemming from the “wants” and “needs” of the settlers is investigated.  A visit to the Howard Family Home (1770-1850 emphasizes the growth of prosperity of the new nation.  Finally, a visit to the Tenement apartment 1850-1919 discusses how the fort became housing for the Augusta workforce and how survival needs once again take precedence. The hands-on activities in each station are designed to immerse the students in how life changed through time and includes discussion of the geography and development of the Kennebec Valley as well as an overview of Fort Western's place in the history of Maine and New England.  This program is best done in a two hour time span

Life as a French & Indian War Era Soldier
Grades 4 and up
Participants will learn about the events that led up to the French and Indian War (The Seven Years War), the life of a provincial soldier in service to the King, and discuss life on the Kennebec from Cushnoc to Fort Western (1628-1767). As members of James Howard’s Company, they will explore the cause and effect of this war which occurred before the American Revolution and experience the daily living conditions of the soldiers during that time in the Orderly Room and the barracks.  They will also learn about the mission of the soldiers and how they prepared to defend the fort as they drill on the parade grounds and fire cannon in the blockhouse.  This program is best done in a two hour time span.

Bartering at the Howard Store
Grades K-2
Using chocolate or lemons, this program clarifies how early mercantile endeavors relied on the bartering system and defines what is meant by being “producers” and consumers”. Participants will experience being a producer by understanding how raw materials are made into marketable products and how labor was used to establish credit in the store.  While shopping in the store, students will compare shopping in the 18th century to and now by focusing on coins, account books, packaging and available products to build an understanding of “wants and needs.” In the parlor children will make either chocolate or lemonade from the products they barter for in the store to help them understand how bartering happens because of people being consumers.

Shopping in the 18th Century
Grades 3-4
Grades 5 and up
Using the S & W Howard store, this program clarifies how early mercantile endeavors relied on the bartering system. Participants will make shingles or billets (barrel & hogshead stave blanks) for barter and trade and then “go shopping” in the Howard Store for “wants” and “needs”.  In the accounts room younger kids will work with money (pounds, shillings & pence) and compare them with money of today.  Older students will work with copies of original account book pages to learn how accounts were kept and how the English Monetary System (pounds, shillings, pence and notes of hand) was used.  All ages will go into the map room to learn about the typical trade routes that linked Maine and New England to world markets and goodsFinally students will go into the parlor and make switchel using materials bartered for at the store.  This program can be easily adapted to curriculum requirements on economics.  Please let us know what you would like reinforced.

Daily Life in the 18th Century
Grades K-12
This program will immerse students in daily 18th Century life.  Participants will do a hearth-based activity, such as food preparation; a wood related activity, such as sawing wood for household use; a textile related activity, such as weaving or carding and spinning wool, and a bed chamber activity where they make an 18th century “bed” and learn about public and private space.  All these activities are designed to help them better understand the nature of daily life among ordinary citizens in post-Revolutionary Maine. Depending on group size, weather, or season, other activities such as games and gardening may be added or substituted.  For younger grades we can make “bartering” at the store a station.

School in Early New England
Grades K-2 (Dame School only)
Grades 3 thru 5 (Dame& Rural)
Grades 6 and up (Dame, Rural & Privates Schools
This program helps students understand what schooling involved in the 18th Century.  Older participants “attend” three types of schools: Dame, Rural & Private. In early New England dames taught young children ages 3 through 8 reading, simple arithmetic, writing on slates, manners, and period games in their homes (Dame School).  In the Rural/Village School students may use slates and learn to spell using Noah Webster’s Blue Speller, learn geography, practice writing techniques and read a cautionary tale about a young milk maid.  Some children went on to private schools where they learned Latin, poetry, arithmetic, and wrote with quill a pen and ink (Private School).  Roles are demonstrated in all “schools.  At the end of the program, time is allowed to students to compare and ask questions.

Revolution! Benedict Arnold’s March Thru Maine
Grades 4 and up
The program focuses on what it was like to be a soldier marching with Benedict Arnold to Quebec. Students will arrive at the boat landing and will be divided into companies. The leader will provide background information on the outcomes of the French and Indian War that lead to Benedict Arnold and his troops coming to Fort Western. They will then march to the Fort carrying supplies, build an encampment, make fire and discuss the proposed route to Quebec using the Montressor Map.  After students return to the boat landing, they will compare and discuss the proposed route with the actual difficulties encountered by Arnold’s Army on their route to Quebec.

How to Schedule Programs at Old Fort Western

Pre-scheduled Fort programs are offered anytime except during winter shutdown from November 17, 2017 through April 23rd, 2017.  To schedule call 626-2385.

All the programs offered at Old Fort Western have a hands-on component that provides facts, concepts, processes, procedures, and principles.

Location: Fort Westernutilizes the 1754 National Historic Landmark “main house,” restored parade ground, watch boxes, blockhouses, perimeter palisade and outlying areas.  Different programs take place in different parts of the fort. Please Note: School programs are not designed for all areas of the fort. Please read the programs’ descriptions carefully.

Group Size:  Size depends on the program(s) chosen. Rooms and spaces at the Fort tend to be small so if your group is more than 10 we will request that you divide into evenly-sized sub-groups which will rotate through activity stations.  We will let you know how many subgroups you need via e-mail.  Occasionally staffing and logistic issues arise necessitating the need to adjust your group numbers upon arrival.  We apologize in advance for any inconvenience.  Please let us know if you have any special needs students.  Since this is an original 1754 structure and most programs utilize both the upstairs and downstairs it is difficult for wheel-chaired students to gain access to all the stations.  If we know in advance and, depending on the program, we may be able to move all stations to the ground floor.  Remember the number of stations depends on the number of participants that can safely fit within any given space.

Chaperones:  Try limiting the number of chaperones per group to two.  If the number of chaperones is more than two and the space is crowded, the excess chaperones will have to step outside or wait in the hall.  This experience is meant for the children. PLEASE remind chaperones to not answer questions posed to the students or interrupt the Historic Interpreter.

Cell Phone and Photography:  This is an experiential opportunity.  Chaperones and students need to leave all technology on the bus, i.e. cell phones, I-pads, computers, etc.  Only teachers are allowed use of cell phones and can take pictures within the fort itself. Video recording is prohibited.

 Program Duration:  Programs are usually 90 minutes to 2 hours long and scheduled based on your school’s needs, program demand and staffing requirements.  Once scheduled, however, it is important to be on time as other programs are scheduled using some of the same staff and spaces.  If for some reason you are going to be late, please call as soon as possible to let us know.  Depending on other programs scheduled and your time table, we may be able to deliver the program in its entirety; however, if you are more than 15 minutes late and we have other groups scheduled after yours we will proceed as planned and stop at the scheduled time; as a result students may not be able to visit all the stations planned.

Cancellation If you need to cancel for any reason you need to let us know within 24 hours of the program so we can contact our staff.  If you do not show and staff is scheduled, set up and waiting for you we will have to bill you for the cost of the staff.

Clothing: The garrison and blockhouses of Fort Western are unheated.  Program participants need to dress appropriately for the weather and season.  Any child inappropriately dressed (i.e. hoodie & flip-flops in November) will be asked to sit out the program with a chaperone in a heated area or the bus.

Cost:  $5.00 is charged per student/chaperone for one program.  The price for schools doing multiple, same day programs is $4.00 per student/chaperone per program. Teachers and one-on-one Educational Technicians are free of charge.  There is a minimum fee for small groups (10 people or fewer), of either $50 (programs requiring one staff) or $80 (programs requiring two or more staff).  Payments for Fort programs are due on the presentation day by cash, credit card, or check made out to Old Fort Western Fund.

Confirmation:  The logistical details for all pre-scheduled programs are confirmed in writing by e-mailor by regular mail if necessary.

Gift Shop:  A visit to the gift shop requires pre-scheduling and will only be offered after the completion of your program.

Customized Programs:  Modified programs are available to meet curriculum needs.  Arrangements can be made at the time of booking 

 Owned by the City of Augusta since 1922, Old Fort Western is a
non-profit organization funded through City appropriation,
admission fees, program fees and private donations.

Call us today at 626-2385 or go to