La Salle University has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that will draw teachers from across the United States to Philadelphia to explore the world of Benjamin Franklin and his contemporaries. The $172,000 Landmarks of American History grant will bring 72 teachers to historic Philadelphia during the summer of 2016.
“The grant projects announced today represent the very best of humanities scholarship and programming,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “NEH is proud to support programs that illuminate the great ideas and events of our past, broaden access to our nation’s many cultural resources, and open up for us new ways of understanding the world in which we live.”
The two one-week workshops, “Benjamin Franklin and the Americans,” will be held July 3-8 and July 10-15. Teachers will study with major scholars of early America, visit sites that Franklin knew, peruse documents in Franklin’s own handwriting, and experience the host of historic opportunities Philadelphia has to offer in the weeks surrounding Independence Day.
“Understanding Benjamin Franklin is essential to understanding the history of the United States, and the NEH’s funding allows for outstanding opportunities for outstanding American educators,” said George Boudreau, Ph.D., a La Salle history professor who will direct the workshops with local educator Carol S. Baldridge. Boudreau has previously directed five NEH Landmarks teachers’ programs, bringing over 400 teachers together to study American history and culture. “The real importance here is that these outstanding educators will take this information back to thousands of American school children,” Boudreau said.
More than 500,000 American students visit Philadelphia’s historic district and Independence National Historical Park each year. A longtime volunteer and advocate for historic sites in the Philadelphia region, Boudreau points out that museum staffs have found that many of those children arrive with little understanding of the city’s importance in the creation of the United States, and many teachers have no follow-up information for their students once they leave.
“These NEH-funded workshops will train teachers to understand Franklin and his era and to make use of historic sites as teaching tools, while at the same time making information available to all teachers through the Internet,” said Boudreau.
As part of the project, a website www.teachingfranklin.org gives teachers throughout the U.S. and around the world access to lesson plans, original sources, images of the founding era, and other materials.
The Landmarks grant has hosted thousands of teachers at outstanding historic sites throughout the United States since 2004. Teachers find rigorous, professional development at Landmarks sites, which have included Mount Vernon, Pearl Harbor, and sites related to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Like those extraordinary sites, Franklin’s Philadelphia offers a glimpse not just at a person, but at an entire era. “Men and women, rich, poor, and middle class, multi-ethnic and multi-racial – these were the people Franklin saw daily in Philadelphia,” Boudreau said. Teachers will study these lives through eighteenth-century buildings, music, art and material culture, and writings from the era.