Saint Patrick Catholic School August Blog

Beth Stenstrom, B.S., M.Ed.

Outside the Box

As summer vacation comes to a close, have you found yourselves getting bored? Ready to come back to school and have a “normal” life again? I think we all are tired of the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, but it doesn’t have to stop us from learning and having fun!  

Did you ever wonder how children and their parents spent their time before there were computers and smart phones and giant stores? What about the soldiers and their families in the American Revolution or the Civil War or any of the other wars in the past?  For many, their faith was the glue that held them together and helped them survive during some very trying times.  Kind of like getting stuck with a pandemic.  Not fun.

While you are waiting to go back to school or when you have a weekend free, why don’t you take some time and explore the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FSNMP)?  It’s right here, and our parish and school property actually sits on part of the Battle of Chancellorsville Battlefield!  That ruin of an old house you see on the corner of Ely’s Ford and Rt. 3?  Did you ever wonder what it looked like before it burned and was destroyed?  Who lived there? Did you know there is a Junior Ranger Program and you can earn a cool badge with a “rocker” for each of the battlefields in the park?  There are four of them! Do you know what they are?

While the visitor centers are still closed from the pandemic, rangers have been busy visiting with people in the park, in what we are calling the “Season on the Landscape.”  Visitors can’t come inside, but we can go outside!  I am a volunteer with Friends of Wilderness Battlefield (FoWB), which is a not for profit organization that partners with the FSNMP, and our volunteers have been outside interpreting daily. (We go to weekends only beginning August 10.)  We have seen quite a few kids get their Junior Ranger certificates and patches, which looks really good on applications down the road, by the way!  You can download the Junior Ranger books online or pick them up at the various battlefields.  

Teachers, we also have programs you might be interested in checking out during the school year.  Our Education Committee Chair will be happy to meet with you and see which topics or goals you want to cover and we offer a number of different programs for your classes.  We will host your class at Ellwood or we can come to your classroom.  There is plenty of room for social distancing at Ellwood and we can rotate the kids through several different topics if you are able to come to us. We have a colonial era physician which the kids absolutely love! Colonial Dancing? The life of a soldier? Reconstruction? Plantation Life? Women in the Civil War… You get the idea!  By the way, it’s free!  Check out our short Education Video.

Another fun thing to do while you are waiting for school to start or when you have some free time is to work on your family genealogy.  I know, who cares what old people were doing 50 years ago? Boring. But what if you found out you have an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War? Maybe you had an ancestor who was wounded during the Battle of Chancellorsville? Suddenly, when it’s your own family you are researching, it becomes a lot more interesting! 

While you are researching people and places, think about what their faith was like during that time.  What were the churches like then? What were the schools like then? Are there any buildings from that time still in the area today? What else were the churches used for during the Civil War? Suddenly, you realize there is a lot more to history than just boring old people complaining about having to walk ten miles to school in the snow! Uphill. Both ways!

Parents and teachers, you can access the FSNMP website at and the FoWB website at  Or, Deacon Stenstrom knows where to find me!

Beth Stenstrom, B.S., M.Ed.


Beth has her Bachelor of Science degree in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction from Texas A & M University, and her Master’s Degree in Education in Psychological Counseling from the University of Missouri in St. Louis.  She is currently the Communications Chair for Friends of Wilderness Battlefield (Board of Directors), Public Relations Chair for the Friends of Chatham (Board of Directors), an active volunteer with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, and the Registrar for the Washington – Lewis Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.