Colorado beckons, so it’s time to head ’em up, move ’em out. Here’s the University of Pennsylvania dormitory where I called home for the past two weeks.
We said goodbye and thank you to our favorite bus driver, Bob. We left him with two books, one of which was The Gettysburg Gospel authographed by Gabor Boritt.
Then we arrived with smiling faces at the airport four hours before our plane was scheduled to leave…and we waited in a serpentine line for two hours before we could check in.
Then we sat on the plane for three hours on the runway because a thunderstorm hovering over Philadelphia grounded all flights. We took off within minutes of our expected arrival time in Denver. After a five hour drive from the airport, I arrived home at 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning.
June 19, 2008
It’s been a few days now and I’m finally rested and ready to reflect on my Philadelphia excursion experiences. I came into teaching junior high and high school history through the back door, so to speak, and not via a degree in history. I have a strong interest in history and I’ve taught history for two years. I’m explaining this because the information I came away with from this experience has filled in many gaps in my basic knowledge-base of early American history. I understand so much more now than I did June 1. I know several of the activities and lectures repeated some of the same information, but for me, much of it was new and I appreciated hearing it more than once. An example is all the stories I heard about Benjamin Franklin. I’m going to read these books about Franklin:
I also purchased a Discovery Channel dvd entitled: Rediscovering America: The Real Ben Franklin, to use in my classroom.
I have many new resources from which to pull as I make lesson plans. I have books to read to deepen my understanding of several topics, such as Alexander Hamilton, A Life by Willard Sterne Randall. I knew who Hamilton was on a superficial level, but as a result of the Philadelphia history experience, I want to know more. His life is fascinating to me.
I have American history quiz cards to use with my students in those few minutes at the end of class when a lesson doesn’t quite fill the hour. I have little replicas of the Liberty Bell to give to the students whom I bribed at the end of the school year that if they’d blog with me while I was in Philadelphia, I’d put their names in a drawing. 🙂
I have notes and pictures to remind me of what I saw and where I went. My favorite was Gettysburg, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy or value every single activity. Independence Hall, Franklin Institute (especially the Real Pirates exhibit), Valley Forge, Crossing the Delaware, Monmouth Battlefield, Carol Berkin…each and every activity was invaluable to me.
Signer’s Hall at the National Constitution Center was eerily realistic. It seemed that some of the bronze statues were almost life-like in the animation of their expressions and eyes.
Actually walking the battlefields at Valley Forge, Monmouth, and Princeton, and listening to the park rangers tell the stories of the battles, helped me better understand and internalize the struggle our founding fathers faced as they fought for America’s independence from Britain. One of the comments that sticks in my mind happened in the auditorium at Washington’s Crossing. The famous picture of Washington in the Durham boat crossing the Delware was across the stage and the tour guide said: This painting is meant to be inspirational, not historical.
I know about Joseph Plumb Martin now and I’m going to use the diary he wrote about his experiences as a Revolutionary War soldier as a whole-class reading activity.
I’m enamored with the American artist Thomas Eakins as a result of my time in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I purchased this book
to learn more about him. I’m going to work in as much information about American artists into my history classes as time allows. Students aren’t exposed to the artistic aspect of history as much as they should be.
To actually stand on Little Round Top at Gettysburg and to see where Pickett made his fateful charge…I don’t know how to explain the emotions it stirred in me.
I felt much the same way when I visited the Alamo. Humbled. Tearful. Inspired. Thankful. The magnitude of what occurred at Gettysburg is truly awe inspiring.
These are two books of the books I purchased at Gettysburg:
Most importantly, I’ve expanded my network of colleagues who teach history. I have already made plans with Liz and Delphine to visit them and see what they do in their classrooms in order to better teach history to my own students.
The first picture is Delphine on a mission to take pictures at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Every time I tried to snap a picture of her, I seemed to always get the back of her head. 🙂 The next one is the three of us, Del, Liz, and Debra at the Gettysburg Monument.
A project I’m going to work on this summer is to put all the maps I purchased under some sort of document case or frame. I’m going to display the maps in my classroom in a simulated museum viewing fashion to give my students a sense of what it’s like to see the original documents in a museum. This is the sort of document case I’m thinking of.
I could go on ad infinitum, but I’ll stop here.
I want to thank Matt, Jonathan, and Scott for including me in the Philadelphia excursion and for organizing all the activities, explorations, and lectures. It was great and I truly appreciated all their work.