At a Glance
Community and business involvement led to a study of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln that ignited student enthusiasm and met a school goal to increase collaboration among the academic and technical programs at the school.
“The Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln” is curriculum created by Todd Van Beck, a certified funeral director and national authority on the assassination, that allows students to be the detectives in the investigation of Lincoln’s death and requires inquiry into and writing about history and the medical profession. Ernie Heffner, of the local Heffner Funeral Home and Crematory, suggested and then paid for the curriculum to be used at the York County School of Technology after a health instructor said she was looking for innovative, exciting teaching strategies that would help meet the school’s goal of expanding collaboration between academic and technical programs. The 230 students who participated completed assignments ranging from journaling and free writing to online discussions of these main topics:
- The medical condition of President Lincoln prior to the assassination.
- The anatomy of President Lincoln’s head wound.
- Embalming before, during, and after the Civil War and its impact on American death services.
- Events leading up to the assassination.
- How the plot to kidnap Lincoln turned into an assassination plot.
- How substance abuse saved the vice president, and how medical treatment of the day saved the life of the secretary of state.
- Prosecutions and executions after the assassination.
- The 20-day funeral and how President Lincoln’s remains were moved 17 times until he was finally laid to rest after 36 years.
- Information about the funeral procession’s stop in York.
Origin / Implementation
York County School of Technology’s Health Occupations instructors sought recommendations for innovative instruction that would engage students in meaningful lessons and integrate the school’s Medical Professions, Social Studies and English classes. A member of the school’s Occupational Advisory Committee recommended “The Assassination and Funeral of President Abraham Lincoln,” and the program was implemented in October 2016.
Results / Impact
Retention and student engagement increased among the 230 students from U.S. History, English, and Medical Professions classes who participated in the Lincoln investigation. The program also attracted the attention of teachers and students at the school who did not participate but asked that they be included in the Lincoln program in the future. Teachers from other schools also expressed interest in initiating the Lincoln curriculum. In addition, the program illustrates the benefits and importance of community ties.