The way Janise Mitchell sees it, there were two Civil Wars.
The first one was between Kansas and Missouri. Then there was the big one that engulfed the country.
"Before you had the big Civil War, you had the little one that was fought right here," the Brooklyn, N.Y., middle school teacher said as she looked around Constitution Hall in Lecompton.
Mitchell was one of 50 teachers from 24 states who visited Lecompton and Lawrence on Wednesday. They are participating in a weeklong workshop called Crossroads of Conflict, about the Kansas and Missouri Border War.
It was organized by the University of Missouri-Kansas City and funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The teachers are studying and touring sites on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border.
For Mitchell and many of the others, this was their first trip to Kansas.
"Back East, the geography is so different," she said. "I had to see the landscaping and what would make people take up arms for it."
Pre-Civil War Bleeding Kansas was an abstraction until now for Patrick Hammond, an eighth-grade teacher from Denver. Having seen the area, he can better tell the stories, he said.
"The kids appreciate when you can say, 'I've been there, here's proof,' and be able to talk about it in a much more personal sense," Hammond said.
Kim Severance grew up in Nevada, Mo., hearing about the Border War. But students in Hinsdale, N.H., where she teaches grade school, know little about it, she said.
"They see it totally as an Abe Lincoln-slavery piece," she said.
In Lecompton, the teachers also visited the Territorial Capital Museum, ate lunch in the Methodist Church and were treated to a play about Bleeding Kansas by the Lecompton Re-enactors. They later took a bus tour through Lawrence guided by former Lawrence High School history teacher Paul Stuewe and Virgil Dean, director of publications for the Kansas State Historical Society.
Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society, said he thinks the visit by the teachers is a sample of what is to come in the future as eastern Kansas and western Missouri become better known through the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area designation.
"I think that will have a major impact on future tourism in Douglas County," he said.
Many of those tourists could be teachers and students, said Judy Billings, director of Destination Management Inc., the heritage area's management entity.
"There are a host of things that we hope to be able to provide for education," she said.