Tag Archives: Teaching the Hudson Valley

Place-Based Education and the New Windsor Cantonment

New Windsor CantonmentRecently, I was appointed a THVIP with Teaching the Hudson Valley. The role of a THVIP is to “find new and better ways to help reach Hudson Valley children and young people with place-based education,” both in and out of the classroom.

I’ve been thinking about some of the great historical sites around Orange and Ulster counties. A personal favorite, and not just because I once worked there, is the New Windsor Cantonment. Continue reading

Hudson Valley Student Writing Contest

To celebrate the National Day on Writing, October 20, THV invites students to write about places they love in the Hudson River Valley. With “Writing about Place,” THV joins the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Writing Project, and others to encourage
our desire to write.

The “Writing about Place” contest is open to K-12 students who live and/or attend school in the 11-county Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. Elementary students may submit poems in any style. Secondary students are invited to write essays or other creative nonfiction- middle school submissions may be up to 500 words and high school writing up to 750 words.

All writing will be considered for publication on THV’s blog and will be shared with staff at the place written about. Samples from last year include a story called Lost in Muscoot, poetry, and an essay about the Sloop Clearwater called Tug of War.

Three students&#8211one each from an elementary, middle, and high school&#8211will receive up to $750 to help cover the cost of visiting the place they love with classmates. Additional prizes are offered by the contest’s cosponsors: Cary Institute, Hancock Shaker Village, Hudson River Recreation, John Jay Homestead, New Castle Historical Society, Olana State Historic Site,
Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Scenic Hudson, and the Sloop Clearwater.

Student work will be read by teachers, site staff, THV’s coordinator, and representatives of NYS DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College. Readers will look for evocation of place, a
vivacious voice, and use of conventions appropriate to each student’s age and development.

Writing must be received by October 31. Word documents or PDFs, along with signed submission forms, should be e-mailed to Info@TeachingtheHudsonValley.org. More information about the “Writing about Place” contest, including the submission form, is available online.

Educators: Place-Based Education Resource Fair

Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) and the Albany Institute of History & Art invite teachers, 4H and scout leaders, home schoolers, PTA activists, and others working with children and teens to drop in for a free place-based education resource fair at the Albany Institute between 3:30 and 5 p.m., Tuesday, October 16.

Erika Sanger, education director at the Albany Institute pointed out that, “Many educators are familiar with field trips offered by local museums, historical societies and sites, parks, and environmental groups in our region. Less familiar are the wealth of artifacts and primary sources, staff expertise, traveling trunks, in-school programs, and other resources sites are eager to share.”

Superintendent Sarah Olson, of the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, added, “This is a great way to connect teachers and others with place-based resources in their own backyards.”

The fair is designed to give educators from sites in the Capital area an opportunity to talk with teachers and youth group leaders one-on one and describe what they have to offer. At the same time, teachers and others will be able to explain what would be helpful to them and their students.

Light refreshments will be served and there will be poster giveaways. While the event is free, interested parties are asked to RSVP to Info@TeachingtheHudsonValley.org or 845-229-9116, ext. 2035, with their name and school or organization.

The fair is made possible, in part, by the Hudson River foundation, www.HudsonRiver.org.

Peter Feinman: New York and the Civil War

The Union may have won the war but the South has won Civil War tourism and its legacy. It’s an extraordinary fact of life that wherever the National Park Service has a site, a battle was fought there! And they are all in the South with the major exception of Gettysburg.

Time and time again presentations on life back then in antebellum (before the war) times begin with Gone with the Wind, still the box-office champion adjusted for inflation. What story does the North including New York have to tell that can compare with the pageantry of the South, the chivalry of the idealized plantation, and the glamour of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh? Freedom and preserving the Union that made the world safe for democracy in the three world wars in the 20th century should count for something, even for Confederates. Continue reading

Teaching the Hudson Valley from Civil War to Civil Rights

Educators are invited to discover new ways to use the region’s special places to teach about controversy and decision making at In Conflict Crises: Teaching the Hudson Valley from Civil War to Civil Rights and Beyond. Registration is now open for THV’s annual institute, July 24-26, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Presidential Library in Hyde Park.

This year’s opening talk, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Controversy and  Connection in the Classroom of Life, will feature Kim and Reggie Harris, musicians, storytellers, educators, and interpreters of history. Accepting THV’s invitation they wrote, “Our nation’s history is filled with conflict, opposition, controversy, and crisis, but is also rich in perseverance, collaboration, determination, and compromise. We look forward to reflecting on ways to use these realities to prepare students to be thinkers and problem solvers.”

During the institute, more than 15 workshops will connect educators with historians, writers, and scientists, as well as their colleagues from schools, parks, and historic sites throughout the Valley. Topics include
Evaluating Scientific Claims (Cary Institute), Using ELA Common Core to Teach Controversy (Lewisboro Elementary School teachers), and Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State and the Civil War, (New York State Museum).

On day 2 of the institute participants will choose one of six in-depth field experiences at Columbia County History Museum (Kinderhook), Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and FDR Presidential Library (Hyde Park), Fishkill Depot, Katherine W. Davis River Walk Center (Sleepy Hollow), Mount Gulian Historic Site (Beacon), or Palisaides Interstate Park.

You can find out more about the program online

Photo: Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, courtesy Bill Urbin, Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, National Park Service.

Place-Based Education Resource Fair Wednesday

Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) invites teachers, 4H and scout leaders, home schoolers, PTA activists, and others working with children and teens to drop in for a free place-based education resource fair between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 16, at the Wallace Education & Visitor Center on the grounds of the FDR Home and Presidential Library in Hyde Park.

Many educators are familiar with field trips offered by local museums, historical societies and sites, parks, and environmental groups in our region. Fewer are aware of the artifacts and primary sources, staff expertise, traveling trunks, in-school programs, and other resources sites are eager to share. The fair is designed to give educators from sites in the mid-Hudson area an opportunity to talk with teachers and youth group leaders one-on one and describe what they have to offer. At the same time, teachers and others will be able to explain what would be helpful to their students and programs.

Light refreshments will be served and drawings will be held for items ranging from private tours of area historic sites to books and water bottles. While the event is free, interested parties are asked to RSVP to Info@TeachingtheHudsonValley.org or 845-229-9116, ext. 2035, with their names and schools or organizations. Pre-registration is required to be entered into the drawings.

Formal and Informal Educators: Can We All Get Along?

One of the ideas behind Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) is that there’s a disconnect between K-12 teachers (formal educators) and the informal educators at our region’s many historical societies, museums, parks, galleries, historic sites, and so on. Informal educators, as we sometimes call them, have all this knowledge and all these amazing treasures that too few students get to glimpse.

We’re not Pollyanna &#8211 we know only too well that there are real barriers to getting kids out of the classroom and into their communities. In future posts, I hope to discuss ways to bridge the gap between formal and informal educators, but first I want to share some ideas for collaborating that were generated when we asked teachers and site staff what they wished the other knew about their worlds.

Let’s start with what they said they thought they could accomplish by working together:

Make education more meaningful. When students handle, measure, or experience actual objects and phenomena, learning becomes experiential/hands-on/authentic/inquiry- based and rooted in real-world understandings.

Connect place and community with learning.

Expand students’ capacity to make cogent arguments, connections, and observations- to ask questions and experiment- to use the scientific method- to engage in analytic thinking- and to experience awe and wonder.

Expand students’ boundaries.

Expose students to a broader range of styles, voices, and points of view and make it easier to address different kinds of learners.

Support learning standards because experience builds skills and knowledge.

Introduce students to more types of expertise along with a wider range of facilities, resources, and equipment.

Open new career possibilities for students because they see people doing other kinds of work.

Introduce more complex concepts &#8211such as appreciation, preservation, stewardship, community, environmental and historical literacy, and scientific and political awareness – and help to make them concrete.

Help students recognize that learning happens everywhere.

Encourage love of learning by showing that it can be fun and engaging.

Change the way students think about and experience learning especially when teachers discover and learn too.

Provide vivid references and jumping off points.

Next, here’s what formal educators told informal educators would help:

Develop consistency so we know what to expect when we visit or you visit us.

Be flexible. Make sure your staff is willing and able to respond to teachers’ needs, e.g., age, discipline, special needs.

Help students ask meaningful questions by sharing what you and your staff ask &#8212- or even debate &#8212- about your place and collections.

Tie programming to curriculum in creative ways. Surprise us. Or, if you’re stumped, ask us for ideas.

Consider sharing more than exhibits.

  • Take kids outside. Talk about landscape, architecture, plants, animals &#8212- your physical place
  • Share the knowledge, expertise, and point-of-view of your staff and volunteers
  • Show artifacts or things that aren’t normally on display
  • Tell us how you work and make decisions
  • Show us any special equipment you use

Extend the experience by sharing technology, documents, oral histories, and other resources we can take with us or access from school

Visit us &#8211 bring or loan documents, objects, artifacts, equipment, etc.

Equally revealing, here’s what informal educators recommended to teachers:
Prepare students and create a context for the visit. Use our pre- and post-visit materials, including evaluations, to extend student learning.

Integrate site experiences across disciplines.

Aim to make experiential learning an ongoing feature of your classroom. We can help.

Treat site visits as major learning opportunities not treats or rewards.

Continue, repeat, and extend experiences. For instance, use technology or repeat site activities at school, e.g., test water from a stream on school grounds, bring site staff to school, do journaling in the school yard instead of at desks.

Together, formal and informal educators agreed that taking the following steps could make their work together more productive for each and for kids:

Share your context and passion and try to understand that of your collaborator.

Communicate before and after the visit.

  • Discuss context, curriculum connections, and standards.
  • Agree on expectations, e.g., pre- and post-visit activities, evaluations, and/or surveys.
  • Exchange e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
  • Strive for multiple visits (both directions) and ongoing contact.

Encourage students to communicate directly with sites and informal educators.

Respect each other and your missions.

Identify and strive to meet mutual goals.

Involve and inform others, e.g., students, parents, boards, and administrators. Help your stakeholders understand the importance of schools and sites working together.

Photo: Students at Peebles Island (Courtesy Regional Alliance for Preservation). 

Debi Duke is coordinator of Teaching the Hudson Valley, a program of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area & Greenway, the National Park Service’s Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, NYS DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.

New Contributor:Debi Duke, Teaching the Hudson Valley

Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor, Debi Duke, coordinator of Teaching the Hudson Valley, a program of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area & Greenway, the National Park Service’s Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, NYS DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program, and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.

Debi was previously executive director of the National Coalition of Education Activists, a parent- teacher alliance with an emphasis on equity in education. For the first half of her career, Debi worked in the labor movement advising and training union leaders and rank-and-file in organizing, communications, and health and safety. From time to time she works as a consultant to labor and not-for-profit groups.

Students Write About Place, Win Class Trips

Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) has announced the winners of its first student writing contest. Three winning writers and their classmates will visit the places they wrote about with costs covered by a THV Explore Award.

Aayushi Jha, a fifth grader at Main Street School in Irvington, is the elementary school winner. Her essay, Tug of War, describes an experience aboard the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Aayushi’s teacher, Susan Wallace, responded to the announcement with this note, “WOW! We are so THRILLED! Thank you so much for offering this opportunity to the future
environmentalists and writers of the world!” You can read Aayushi’s essay online.

“Climbing up Bonticou Crag, I split open the wilderness,” is the provocative opening line of Looking Topside Down, a poem about the Mohonk Preserve by high school winner Nicole Yang. The middle school winner is seventh grader Emilie Hostetter who wrote a poem about Minnewaska State Park called I Did Not Know. Nicole and Emilie are students of Janine Guadagno at Tabernacle Christian Academy in Poughkeepsie. You can read both poems here.

“We received many wonderful and inspiring pieces of writing,” said THV coordinator Debi Duke. “Although we could have only three winners, we’re looking forward to publishing more student writers throughout the winter and spring. Essays about Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val kill in Hyde Park, the replica of Henry Hudson’s Half Moon, and Muscoot Farm in Westchester County
are among those readers can watch for.”

Teaching the Hudson Valley Student Writing Contest

Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) is looking for student writing about places in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. Short essays and stories written by K-12 students will be accepted by e-mail until 9 a.m., Monday, November 7.

Beginning in December THV’s blog will publish up to one piece of student writing per week for the next 12 months. They will also share the students’ work with sites written about – they may choose to publish as well. In addition, three students – one each in elementary, middle, and high school – will receive an Explore Award covering trip costs so they can share the place they wrote about with their classmates.

All writing about places in the 11 counties that make up the federally-designated Hudson River Valley Heritage Area will be considered for publication. To be eligible for an Explore Award places must have cultural, historic, or natural significance, be owned or managed by a not-for-profit or government body, and be open to the public regularly.

When reviewing student work, THV will look for evocation of place, the vivacity of the writer’s voice, and use of conventions appropriate to each student’s age and development. Readers will include teachers and staff from Heritage sites throughout the region.

Teachers, youth group leaders, and others can find details, writing prompts, resources, and more at THV’s website.