Norwich Museum Presents Historian on Partridge’s Rugged, Outdoor Lessons


Feb. 15, 2018

Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum and History Center presents Norwich historian Dr. Gary Lord on “Norwich Pedestrian Excursions: Learning in the Field,” in a Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at noon.

The event, sponsored by the Sullivan Museum and History Center Associates, includes a light lunch and is free and open to the public.

When Captain Alden Partridge established his military academy in 1819 he introduced a highly innovative system of education that included field excursions as an integral part of the learning experience of his students. These “pedestrian excursions” not only challenged students to endure “hardship and fatigue” but provided opportunities to supplement classroom instruction with what Partridge called “practical and everyday knowledge of the world”–knowledge which “can never be derived from books.”

The field excursions undertaken by Partridge’s students extended to the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, westward along the Erie Canal to Niagara Falls, and southward as far as Washington, D.C. and Mount Vernon. These field trips provided students with valuable experiences in botany, mineralogy, surveying, engineering, military science, political economy, and history. Student participants observed factories, navy yards, arsenals, waterworks, canals, railroads, and bridges. They also visited legislative assemblies, museums, and historic sites.

Clearly, Alden Partridge was one of the very first American educators to grasp the pedagogical value of experiential learning and give it a prominent place in the curriculum of higher education.

Gary Lord is Emeritus Dana Professor of History at Norwich University. His fields of interest include American Colonial History and the Early U.S. Republic. Lord has a particular interest in the early 19th century educational reformer Alden Partridge who placed a high priority on experiential education and assigned it a prominent place in his innovative system of education. Lord has written extensively on Partridge and in 1981 led a group of Norwich and Dartmouth College students, along with a contingent of faculty, in a recreation of Partridge’s 1821 expedition to measure the height of Mount Washington.

The talk is held in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibit, “Explorers of Norwich: On Land and Sea,” which runs through June 30, 2018. The exhibition focuses on the stories of Norwich alumni who traversed the United States, the continents and the world to learn of new lands and opportunities on behalf of the still young United States. Also on display is “Discovering Mother Tongues: Writing, Place, and Identity.” This exhibit asks: what about the perspectives of those that explorers encountered? Each piece features text in a writing system on the verge of extinction, carved in wood from the region where that culture lives.  “Discovering Mother Tongues” is sponsored by Norwich University’s Academic Achievement Center, and the International Center.

Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum and History Center is the only museum in Vermont to be named a Smithsonian Affiliate. The museum is open to the public from 8 until 4 Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 11 to 4 during the academic year. Admission is free. For more information about the programs or exhibit, please call 802-485-2183 or visit

About Norwich University˜

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) 

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