On the Road

One of the parts of my job I enjoy the most is the opportunity to get out into the surrounding area to work with different audiences, from a group of 6th grade students developing project topics for this year’s National History Day program to college students looking for internship opportunities in 2013.

Rich Strum, Director of Education, with students from Peru Middle School during a recent visit to discuss History Day topics.

Part of my role as Coordinator of North Country History Day is to meet with teachers and students to orient them to the National History Day program and help them as they begin to identify possible topics for their projects related to the current year’s theme: “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” Since late September I’ve met with several groups of students, including a group of homeschool parents and students here at Fort Ticonderoga during “Homeschool Day” in October.

Students at Peru Middle School just south of Plattsburgh meet every other week in an afterschool club to work on their History Day projects. I was able to meet with these students on a recent Thursday at the end of their school day to talk about History Day. Several students participated in the History Day program last year and have now encouraged classmates to take part in the coming year. Students are now entering the “crunch time,” with registration to participate in North Country History Day coming up in early February and the competition in early March. They are currently immersed in research related to their chosen topic.

Director of Interpretation Stuart Lilie with students from Ticonderoga Elementary School during the outreach program “A Soldier’s Life.”

Students are also the focus of our new school outreach program “A Soldier’s Life.” I’ve been working with Director of Interpretation Stuart Lilie to re-launch a formal school outreach program. In early November, Stuart, interpreter Cameron Green, and I went to Ticonderoga Elementary School to field test the new program with fourth grade students. Stuart and Cameron focused on the life of soldiers at the Fort in 1775, using food and clothing as tangible links between the soldier’s life and that of the students. This new program is now available for schools throughout the region. Grants from the Walter Cerf Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Fund cover most of the costs for select schools.

I’ve also been out working with teachers in the region. On November 2nd, I spent the day working with a group of 45 teachers from across the state of Vermont at an event on “Changing Perspectives in History” sponsored by the “Turning Points in American History” Teaching American History NEH project. I worked with the teachers in groups of 15, using historic documents and images to talk about “Changing Perspectives on Benedict Arnold.” Many of these same teachers will spend a day at Fort Ticonderoga next August learning about ways to use museum exhibitions and interpretive programs to enhance their teaching of the American Revolution.

As I write, I am preparing to present on “The Common Core, Literacy, and Historical Thinking in Social Studies” at the Vermont Alliance for the Social Studies annual conference in Burlington later this month. This is one of several conferences for teachers that I try to attend each year. I’ll also be presenting at the New York State Council on the Social Studies conference in late February in Westchester, New York.

This fall I’ve also taken part in two internship fairs for college students: at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, and at SUNY Plattsburgh. These venues provide an opportunity for college students seeking practical, real-world experiences to learn about the options for internships and project-based collaborative relationships.

Finally, I gave a presentation to a group of 120 senior citizens at SUNY Adirondack as part of their life-long learning. The overview of Fort Ticonderoga’s history was followed by a lively discussion about the role of Fort Ticonderoga in 18th-century American history.

The road trips continue through the winter. Maybe I’ll be passing through your town.

Rich Strum
Director of Education

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