- Meyersdale Area School District
MAHS students placed 3rd in contest
A Meyersdale Area High School sophomore recently placed third in a contest sponsored by Fort Ligonier. Students were invited to “Design an 18th Century Fort” and Carrie Jo Engle placed third in the competition. The contest was created by MAHS graduate David Swank. Swank is the assistant Director of Education at Fort Ligonier. Engle learned of this contest through her History teacher, Mr. Michael Swank, David’s father.
Carrie Jo Engle earned a third place finish in the contest, earning $50 in cash and a plaque for her exemplary efforts. She is the daughter of Craig and Nancy Engle. Participants were challenged to design a period-accurate model of a fortification that may have existed in the 1700s. Engle’s creation was named Fort Summit. Fort Summit featured five different structures, including a powder magazine, a Quartermaster’s office, Officers’ quarters, soldiers’ barracks and a storehouse. Fort Summit is enclosed on two sides by barricades and the entire fort was enclosed by a fence with wooden spikes.
Assistant Director Swank said Engle’s efforts are the perfect example of what he had hoped to accomplish when he created this contest.
“Carrie did an excellent job with her fort! The contest came about as an idea that we generated at the start of the New Year to get students ages 10 through 17 involved in an educational, creative, and unique experience to learn more about our history at Fort Ligonier and 18th Century history in general,” Swank explained. “The prize money was made possible by the Brad Mooney Fund. Brad was our lead historical preservationist for over 30 years before his passing in 2021, and we also wanted to honor him and his legacy at Fort Ligonier with this event.”
“We wanted students to use critical thinking skills to create models of forts that were meant to be fictional in nature, but similar to real forts that were present during that time period. The idea was to foster creativity and open-mindedness in developing these models without making exact replicas of real forts,” Swank explained. “We were blown away by the number of entrees with over 30 forts present on the day of the event.”
Judging of the forts was conducted by three historical experts and was considered based on authenticity, neatness, creativity and completeness. Each competitor was also required to provide a written description of their fort.
Visitors were also encouraged to place a vote for their favorite fort, which went toward the "People's Choice" award.
“Participants did an amazing job with this project and we are hoping to continue to build on this event's success moving forward!”
Engle learned of the competition through the elder Swank and his Personal Learning Time (PLT) program at MAHS. Through this elective, Engle learned about the history of Fort Ligonier and the important role it played in our country’s history. Swank began offering the PLT on the contest in February.
Engle said the entire experience was enjoyable and she learned a lot throughout the process and through her attendance at Swank’s PLT. She said building the fort was fun and she liked trying something new.
“I was excited about the contest and having the opportunity to go to Fort Ligonier. I have never been there before,” Engle explained. “But, I was surprised that I won!”
Mr. Swank said he had approximately seven students attend his PLT and he provided them with background information and resources to help them meet the challenges outlined in the “Build an 18th Century Fort” competition.
“Carrie worked on her fort on her own time at home using the materials that I had given her or told her about. The materials that she used came up with on her own, trying to be as authentic as possible according to her research,” M. Swank explained.
“I gave Carrie a copy of Fred Anderson’s book called ‘The Crucible of War.’ Up until recently, historians and Fort Ligonier’s Director called that book the ‘Bible’ about the history of the ‘Forbes Campaign’ and the local history of Fort Ligonier and the role it played in the ‘French and Indian War’ or the ‘The Seven Years War’ globally. Recently new research has changed some things in that book,” he explained. “That is the really interesting thing to me about history, what we believe to be facts through extensive research sometimes turn out to be very different from another historian's perspective based on their own new research.”
“I stress to my students all the time that, as a historian, I deal in facts only. Doing otherwise only leads to misleading information that some may not be able to discern the difference,” M. Swank explained. “Having taught David that has served him well in his career choice. I am certainly very proud of him and Fort Ligonier as he works very hard to make sure that correct facts are taught to the youth in the area.”