Teachers from around the United States will benefit from a recent National Endowment for the Humanities grant that will fund three one-week workshops exploring the life, ideas, and historic sites of one of America’s most popular founding fathers. The NEH Landmarks of American History grant to Penn State Harrisburg will support “A Rising People: Benjamin Franklin and the Americans,” a program designed to give educators access to the lives, struggles, and achievements of Franklin and his contemporaries. The $210,000 grant to PSU faculty member George W. Boudreau will give teachers access to documents, historic sites, lectures and a variety of other resources intended to improve the way American students understand the nation’s founding era.
The three identical workshops, which will take place in Philadelphia June 25-29, July 9-13, and July 16-20 at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies on the University of Pennsylvania campus, will host 40 teachers each. Penn State is a longtime member of the McNeil Center consortium.
“Understanding Benjamin Franklin is essential to understanding the history and heritage of the United States,” said Boudreau. “This program will help teachers bring Franklin to life for school children around the country.” Boudreau, a recognized Franklin scholar, authored the grant that will bring 120 teachers to Philadelphia during the 2007 Landmark Workshops sponsored by the NEH’s “We, the People” initiative.
Each year, more than 500,000 American schoolchildren visit Philadelphia’s historic district and Independence National Historical Park, many with little understanding of the city’s importance to the creation of the United States; additionally, teachers often do not have follow-up information for their students. “A Rising People: Benjamin Franklin and the Americans,” will train teachers to understand Franklin and his era, and to make use of historic sites as teaching tools, while creating a body of information for all teachers through the Internet.
“Franklin’s Philadelphia offers a glimpse, not just at one person, but an entire era that changed all of America’s way of life, thoughts, government, and society. Men, women, rich, poor, middle-class, multi-ethnic and multi-racial—these were the people Franklin saw and interacted with daily in Philadelphia,” said Boudreau.
Teachers will study these lives through eighteenth-century buildings, art and material culture, and writings from the era. The workshop’s topics will include Franklin as a printer and writer; Franklin’s role in the creation of Pennsylvania politics and in writing the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution; the lives of women, the poor, and African-Americans in eighteenth-century America; eighteenth-century art and music, and several other topics.
A newly launched website (www.teachingfranklin.org) will provide teachers from around the world with lesson plans and ideas produced as final projects by the participating teachers along with relevant Franklin materials, chats, and web casts. The “Rising People” workshop application and instructions, as well as important information such as applicant eligibility, workshop daily schedules, and faculty biographies, are also available on the site. Completed applications should be postmarked by March 15, 2007. Teachers will receive a stipend to help cover ordinary living expenses, books, and travel expenses to and from the workshop location.
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