I was disappointed when I read about this web activity and the government shutdown resulted in the NPS websites being offline for a while, but now, no more! George Washington’s Codes activity is from the NPS and is a part of the junior ranger program. Visitors to the site are introduced to a coding scheme George Washington used to keep his wartime messages secret and then are given the opportunity to decode a message themselves.
Interested in more decoding? This PBS site that supports the NOVA show “Decoding Nazi Secrets” explores the Enigma machine, decoding efforts during WWII, offers a virtual Enigma-like machine to try, and in the teaching materials section, a decoder that can be printed and built by students, then used to explore more codes.
Both offer fun ways to talk about secrets during wartime. Then, depending on the age of the students, a conversation could extend into a discussion about intelligence gathering today, the Patriot Act, the role of the NSA, and more.