Grant enables teachers to walk in Franklin's footsteps

January 05, 2010

Harrisburg, Pa. — Schoolteachers from across the United States will again walk in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin through a National Endowment for the Humanities grant awarded to Penn State Harrisburg.

The $168,000 Landmarks of American History grant will bring 80 teachers to historic Philadelphia this coming summer. This marks the fourth year that Penn State Harrisburg and its School of Humanities have been awarded an NEH grant to support the program, titled “A Rising People: Benjamin Franklin and the Americans.”

From June 27 to July 2, and from July 5 to 10, teachers will study with major scholars of early America, visit sites that Franklin knew, peruse documents in Franklin’s own hand, and experience the host of historic opportunities Philadelphia has to offer in the weeks surrounding Independence Day.

“We’re absolutely delighted that the NEH’s funding will allow this program to continue,” said Penn State Harrisburg Associate Professor of History and Humanities George Boudreau, a Franklin scholar and the program’s director. “Understanding Benjamin Franklin is essential to understanding the history of the United States.”

Since its inception in 2005, more than 200 teachers have participated in the “Rising People” program.

“The real importance here is that these outstanding educators take this information back to thousands of American school children,” Boudreau said. “For the fourth year, NEH has recognized the quality of our School of Humanities programs and faculty expertise with a generous grant."

A longtime volunteer and advocate for historic sites in the Philadelphia region, Boudreau points out that museum staffs have found that many of the half-million schoolchildren who visit Philadelphia’s historic district each year arrive with little understanding of the city’s importance to 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.

As part of the project, Penn State Harrisburg has developed the Web site at to give 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 is funded through the NEH’s “We, the People” program, an initiative that 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 view of more than an historic figure, but an era.

“The people Franklin saw each day -- rich and poor, men and women, multi-ethnic and multi-racial -- will be studied by way of buildings, art, writings, and material culture,” Boudreau said.

Application materials will be available through the Web site. All applications are due March 2, 2010.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 05, 2010