Grant enables schoolteachers to walk with Benjamin Franklin

For the third year in a row, Penn State Harrisburg is the educational leader in providing schoolteachers from throughout America an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the college and its School of Humanities a $175,000 grant to support summer workshops for 80 teachers in Philadelphia and a free Web site available to anyone aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of the role Franklin played in the founding of the nation.

The most recent grant brings the total to more than $500,000, which NEH has committed exclusively to Penn State Harrisburg for the Franklin-focused education effort.

Associate Professor of History and Humanities George Boudreau indicated that the grant renewal came as a result of overwhelmingly positive response from participants from the first two years, and the extensive use of the Web site by teachers throughout the nation. Also noted is Boudreau’s national reputation as a leading Franklin scholar and his work on the subject with students of all ages. He is also on the speaker’s list for the Smithsonian Teaching American History Program and has already given five lectures on the subject this year.

Carol Baldridge, a past participant in the program and a third grade teacher at Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, mirrored the NEH endorsement by saying, “Charged with teaching about Philadelphia, I began to explore Ben Franklin and found the NEH workshop. The lectures from experts in the field, including everything from music to art, politics to trade fleshed out my own knowledge of Franklin. This allowed me to create a curriculum that crossed disciplines and gave my students a better idea of life in the time of Franklin. I have taken three NEH workshops and they all have been excellent.”

“NEH has once again endorsed the quality and national reputation of our American studies and humanities programs and faculty expertise with this generous grant,” Boudreau said. “Schoolteachers and children throughout the nation — and even the world — will benefit from the workshops and Web site.”

The summer program and Web site are supported by Penn State Harrisburg’s recognized leadership in American studies. The only college or university in the Commonwealth offering baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral study in the discipline, the college is committed to capturing and chronicling the American experience — both in the classroom and for the benefit of the external community.

Through the workshops entitled “A Rising People: Benjamin Franklin and the Americans,” held June 28 to July 4 and July 5 to 10, “schoolteachers will study with major scholars of early America and visit sites that Franklin knew,” said Boudreau. “Understanding Franklin is essential to understanding the history of the United States.”

In addition, the Landmarks of American History grant also includes the Penn State Harrisburg creation of the Web site providing free access to lesson plans, original sources, images of the founding era, and other materials for all teachers and interested persons.

Many of the thousands of schoolchildren who visit Philadelphia each year, Boudreau pointed out, have been found to have little understanding of Philadelphia’s importance in the creation of the U.S., and many teachers have no follow-up information. “Through the workshops, teachers will understand Franklin much more, and at the same time we have created information for all teachers to use on the Internet at www.teachingfranklin.org,” Boudreau adds. 

“Franklin’s Philadelphia offers a glimpse not just at a person, but at an entire era, and changing ways of life, thought, government, and society,” Boudreau says. “Men and women, rich, poor, and middle class, multi-ethnic and multi-racial – these were the people Franklin saw daily in Philadelphia. Teachers will study these lives through eighteenth-century buildings, art and material culture, and writings from the era.”

The program’s workshops will be conducted in the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Applications for the summer workshops will be available through the Web site teachingfranklin.org. All applications are due March 15, 2009.

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Last Updated May 06, 2010