Lesson Plan

Surviving and Thriving in the Winter of 1777

George Washington and his ragged army marching in to Valley Forge in the snow
The March to Valley Forge
William T. Trego, 1883. Courtesy of The American Revolution Center


Why did General George Washington choose Valley Forge as the site for the Army’s winter encampment? This unit focuses on examining the choices made by the leader of the Continental Army as he determined where to place his army in 1777.


The objective of the curriculum unit is for students to engage the history of the Continental Army's encampment at Valley Forge through active historical learning. While the curriculum material is designed with a middle school level focus (grades 5-8), educators may adapt it to suit the needs of elementary or high school learners.


Surviving and Thriving is broken into seven lesson plans. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit, though some lessons do refer to one another and are better done in sequence. However, each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources.

Throughout the unit, students will evaluate and understand the winter encampment site at Valley Forge (1777-78) by taking part in the life of a member of the Continental Army as it marched into Valley Forge, was challenged by multiple elements, and then potentially exited to continue the war for independence against the British. 

We suggest that students be placed in small, heterogeneous groups which can then move as independent entities through the lessons. The students within a group will individually complete the "Survival Rubric" with each learning module to determine, at the completion of the curriculum, how successfully he/she has "survived and thrived" by virtue of their individual "survival score." 

Best Practices Incorporated
Reading and Writing in the Content Area
Analysis of Primary Documents/Artifacts
Analysis of Secondary Sources
Map Skills
Heterogeneous Student Grouping
Creative Problem Solving
Historical Research Skills
Media/Digital/Internet Technology Skills
Presentation Skills
Extension Activities

Lessons in this unit 
Lesson 1: The March In  Why did General George Washington choose Valley Forge as the site for the Army's winter encampment? This module focuses on examining the choices made by the leader of the Continental Army as he determined where to place his army in 1777.   

Lesson 2: Washington's Orders Build those huts…this module focuses on exploring what may have been one of the most important orders given by General Washington during the winter encampment.   

Lesson 3: Breakfast...Lunch...Dinner? The men have to eat…but how and what? This module focuses on introducing students to the hardships of the encampment, specifically related to the daily food needs of the soldiers. 

Lesson 4: Keeping the Doctor Away Keeping the Doctor Away Approximately 2,000 men perished from disease and health-related issues during the winter of 1777-78. This module focuses on examining the critical issue of a soldier's health during the six month encampment.   

Lesson 5: The Daily Routine If the Continental soldiers were confined to Valley Forge for several months in the heart of the cold winter, what exactly did they do every day? This module focuses on the introducing students to the daily life of the Continental soldiers while they were encamped at Valley Forge.   

Lesson 6: Successful "Sogering" General von Steuben was the man in charge of turning Washington's Army into a more highly trained fighting force, but how did this all happen? This module focuses on taking students through the basic steps toward becoming a "professional" soldier in 1777. The term "sogering" comes from Private Joseph Plumb Martin's memoirs when he referred to "soldiering", or being a soldier.   

Lesson 7: The March Out The summer of 1778 was a joyous time for the army as it left the confines of Valley Forge, but what happened from here? This module focuses on showing students that the war for independence did not end at Valley Forge, but instead, continued for several more years…the question: if you survived Valley Forge what happened after? 

Full list of Curriculum Standards for each lesson. 


Additional Resources

Suggested Web Resources

http://www.doublegv.com/ggv/battles/Contl.html http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/valleyforge.htm http://thehistoricpresent.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/what-happened-at-valley-forge/ http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/battleswars16011800/p/valleyforge.htm http://www.ushistory.org/march/phila/valleyforge.htm http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/history/rock.html http://www.revolutionarywararchives.org/valleyforge.html http://library.thinkquest.org/TQ0312848/valleyforge.htm http://www.pbs.org/wnet/historyofus/web02/segment2.html