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New York – New York: Reflections on my 4th Historical Trip of a Lifetime!

June 25, 2010

Wow, I can’t believe it’s over already. Two weeks in New York studying, living, experiencing, and learning about the great state of New York and its impact on the history of our country. So before I go any further I want to take a moment and again give a great big thanks to Scott Whited, Matt Harris, and Jonathan Rees who put this program together. Without your skill and dedication towards the teaching of history none of this would have been possible. This New York trip, just as the others to Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago was marvelous!

As in past years we are required to take some time and reflex on our trip and how it will make us better teachers of America history. I have spent the last few days in deep thought, almost in a trance like state (although my exhaustion from being on such a non stop and exciting trip had nothing to do with this daze) thinking about how I could best answer this question in a blog. Well it is now time to spill the beans and expose this New York trip for what it was! Are you ready, sitting on the edge of your seats with anticipation of what I have to say? If you are, then keep on reading. If not, then get a life and go explore New York for yourself. Since I am somewhat sure that almost everyone reading this blog already has a life I will continue with the expectation that you are continuing to read. So now, for all you “blog stocking history maniacs and what-to-be historians,” here it is straight from my heart, the official final reflexive blog of the 2010 Exploring New York History Trip. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed my time in New York!

What exactly can I say about this trip to New York? The Teaching American History Grant has been so phenomenal over these last four years allowing me, as well as 29 other teachers, to experience history in a way that I would never have been able to otherwise! As educators who teach about history, how can we not benefit from visiting and experiencing those things we instruct over? I spent an entire year looking forward to this trip to New York! What a great opportunity it turned out to be. This past year I had the pleasure of teaching 4 elective history classes covering immigration and 2 elective classes covering the Revolutionary War. What I received in New York was a chance to experience for myself so many of these places that I have taught about but had never visited for myself. This knowledge and understanding will make me a better teacher of American history as I am able to pass along this information as well as images to my students.

I talked with many of the teachers in our group and the overwhelming opinion was that the experience at Ellis Island was the best of the best! I have studied, read about, written about, and taught several classes focusing on Ellis Island. I was so excited the day we finally jumped on the ferry for Ellis Island. But I had no idea that stepping onto this island/ museum, dedicated to immigration and the millions of lives it touched, would impact me the way it did. It is a rare few indeed who have the opportunity that we got by walking the halls and buildings so long ago abandoned. It was a sometimes eerie feeling that overtook me as we looked at the hospital ward, especially the building where terminally ill people were sent to die peacefully as long as their money didn’t run out, or sent back to their native lands if they didn’t have the money.

Not only were we given a “behind the scenes tour” of the facility, but we were also exposed to several hands-on teacher activities as well as a stick drive full of primary and secondary sources and lesson plan ideas.  Then there was the Great Hall building which was amazing! I was really impressed by the baggage exhibit and the different methods (traditional, 3-deminional, interactive) that this museum presented the all the diverse timelines. The exhibits in the many rooms were filled with so many fantastic displays of immigration that it almost takes your breath away thinking about the many ways that immigrants have influenced our country! As I left the island it was easy to imagine all the diverse people from so many nations, of so many colors, speaking so many languages, bringing so many traditions to the “Land of Hope” dreaming of a new life in the “Land of the Free!”

What a great idea it was to go to both Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty on the same day! This jam packed day would see my heart beat excitedly as we neared “Lady Liberty.” We walked around the entire statue as I took pictures from every possible angle. We saw and yelled “I love you Matt” at Matt Damon who was filming a movie while we were there. My main disappointment was not getting to go inside and up the statue. The Tenement Museum tied right into this immigration experience. It was incredible walking into these rooms that are set up exactly as immigrant families used them. I know that I will be better able to tell the true story of immigration and with a greater passion now that I have experienced these sites in New York City!

There were so many more highlights of our trip that I could go on for days! At first I thought that all the daylong tours we took were overkill. After all, New York is such a big city and there was so much we could see. I thought to myself that I could spend 4-5 weeks studying and touring New York and still not be satisfied. But the bus tour and the three walking tours around the boroughs of New York were great and filled with information about the growth of New York City. In fact, it was during the third day of the walking tours that I finally and fully understood just how important New York City was to the development of our country!

Experiencing a live Broadway play was something I will always remember but if I ever do it again I will watch a more “manly” play other than Mary Poppins! Going to a game in the new Yankee Stadium was a must even though the wrong team won! Times Square was incredible with so many people out at night and the city all aglow in light! How about Chinatown and Little Italy for a cultural experience? Eating different types of food that I normally wouldn’t brought me out of mt comfort zone. Seeing and walking around Times Square was a great experience with all its lights, bustle, and glitter that forever stay in your mind. All the walks through the boroughs and neighborhoods such as Five Points, Chinatown, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and lunch in Little Italy–how can you compare that to anything else?

These four trips (Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and now New York) that I’ve been on have been incredible! They have helped bring me much needed knowledge and understanding of places that I would never have been able to do on my own. It is sad to have this grant come to an end since it has feed me with so much love for travel and hands on learning about our history. I am writing this blog from Oregon where I am still experiencing first hand about America’s history. Our four trips have been exciting, informative, and full of action and adventure. But I think the best thing to come out of these trips have been all the lesson ideas that our presenters have given to us. American history teachers experiencing American history first hand with each of our five senses, it doesn’t get any better than that. All I can ask of myself now is to make sure that I take all the information and knowledge I’ve received and use it wisely in the classroom. If I do that right then hopefully I can help many students learn to love history!

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3 comments

  1. King Hutch,

    As usual, a fantabulous blog!!! As one of your fellow “four-timers” I concur, what an experience!!! As I read everyone’s posts, I find it interesting what everyone chose as their most memorable and influential place. I think Ellis Island certainly ranks up there, but I’m not sure it is my favorite. It most certainly gave me a better understanding of how things really functioned there. I really appreciate what you said about great opportunity to tour the abandoned buildings that most never have the chance to see. You are so right!!

    You and Dave have the same opinion, experiencing history first-hand with all of our five senses…it doesn’t get any better than that. I am confident that we certainly are better teachers for having done this.

    King Hutch, my heart is going to be a bit empty next year when our “posse” has nowhere to ride.

    Wendy


  2. Thanks Wendy 🙂

    I am still reading reflective posts. Being away for 10 days in Oregon has slowed me down a bit but I continue to “blog” along!

    It really was a great trip wasn’t it (just as all four trips have been!) Using all our senses to experience history has really been an eye opening experience for me that I have to somehow pass along to my students! Then I think I will finally become the type of teacher of history that I inspire to be!

    Always remembering and always missing the “Wild Blogs!” Someday we will RIDE AGAIN!

    Hutch


  3. Why wasn’t Marry Poppins “manly” enough for you?



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