New York Reflections Post

6/16/10

As I sit in the airport, I am thinking back over the last 14 days and all that I have seen and done. I must first say that the days flew by and there were rarely any dull moments. This will be another trip to remember, and one that will most definitely benefit me in the classroom, if for nothing else but to enthuse my students about travel to other areas of the country! I know myself well enough by now to know that I will be excited to tell about each thing we did on the trip, from the Revolutionary War battlesites we visited to viewing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. I know as I sit here thinking back on all this that some where, some how, I will convince a 7th or 8th grade student that they need to travel to New York and visit some of the sites I visited the summer of 2010!

I would have to say that my favorite day of all was the visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. To know that my relatives came in to this area of the country and had to be checked in as they did was overwhelming to think about. Seeing all the different rooms in the buildings of Ellis Island–the room where people were sent that were terminally ill, in particular–was an eye opener. The Great Hall has changed immensely since those days but it was kind of easy to imagine it being filled, wall to wall, with people of all nationalities, colors, languages, etc., all hopeful at the thought of starting life in a new country, a country where freedom reigned.

There were so many highlights during these days that I could go on and on, but I think this was  a great trip! The walking tours around the burroughs of New York were really fun, and I was even able to keep up with everyone! I enjoyed our time with Ed O’Donnell very much. He was enthusiastic about what he was doing and he was over-the-top knowledgeable! Seeing a Broadway play was a great experience, and so was walking around Times Square and Rockefeller Center. All the walks through Chinatown, and lunch in Little Italy–how can you compare that to anything else?

It’s been a great ride, going on these four TAH trips. I’m somewhat sad to see them end because, as Dr. Rees knows, I DO love to travel and be gone. I have such a better grasp on American history than I had prior to these trips. There’s nothing like seeing it firsthand and being able to experience it the way we have. Since 2007 we’ve been gone a total of 7+ weeks. Those weeks have been action-packed, adventure-packed, and packed full of lessons. All of this translates to a better classroom, better understanding, and hopefully to more students who will fall in love with history the way I have!

THE END

Ft. Ticonderoga/Saratoga Nat’l. Park

6/15/10

This morning we were on the bus for a couple of hours, sleeping when I should have been blogging, but 7 a.m. is EARLY! We drove to Salty’s Pub and Grill to pick up our guide, James Hughto, and proceeded on to Ft. Ticonderoga.

The fort was much larger than I had anticipated, having only a few prior forts that I’ve been to to compare this one with. It must have been quite the “deal” in its day–a picket fence to surround it, a grassy area next, then followed by a trench surrounding the entrance. There were parts of the fort that looked newer than the rest, and asking one of the young men there (dressed in period costume), we found out that the fort is very difficult to maintain. The quality of the original work was poor (someone said they thought the builder or designer was executed in France!) and so it has been a constant battle to keep the fort in working order. We listened to James talk about the fort some and then we wandered on our own. I went to one of the highest points on the upper level and put my quarter in the viewfinder to look around. I was stunned and amazed at the view! I could clearly see the site that our guide told us was Defiance Hill, and I could see two different sections of Lake Champlain. The lush green countryside was neverending.

The next leg of our journey was to Saratoga, the site of two Revolutionary War battlesites—September 19 and October 7, 1777. This tour was okay, passable, in that we spent most of it on the bus. It reminded me somewhat of the day we toured Gettysburg two years ago. Anyway, we stopped at a few key spots around the area and James explained the different battles and the strategic plans for each. I don’t pretend to know much about or understand the theories behind all this “stuff,” but I tried to hang with James while he explained! Our last stop was at the memorial erected in the memory of Benedict Arnold. James explained the symbols on the monument–the boots, the officer’s logo, etc.–and then made a comparison between Benedict Arnold and Timothy McVeigh. His point was that both men had served their country honorably before committing “the big sin.” In Arnold’s case it was treason against the United States and in McVeigh’s case it was the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. James made us think about this–did Arnold deserve to have a monument erected in his honor? Should we erect a monument to McVeigh because he served in the Gulf War? I think NOT, in both cases; just my opinion!

I think using this lesson in class would be very easy to do. Middle school students would easily grasp the conversation concerning erecting monuments to men (or women) who’ve committed a crime, a crime that would be considered to be a ‘biggie.’ Are there other examples of this somewhere in our history? Perhaps. But, as I said, students would be able to give their opinions as to whether or not we should be erecting these monuments to these men. I would show the pictures I took and also explain the symbology to them concerning the boot and its decorations.

We capped off the night with a trip to Salty’s Pub and Grill for what I believe was the best meal of the two weeks we’ve been gone! There was a wide variety of food at our table—Marie had scallops, Becky had a Pastrami, Connie had a dish called Fruit of the Sea, as did Karin, and I had comfort food, turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes. A few of us followed this up with dessert–Marie and Becky had Ashley’s Chocolate Concorde and I had warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream! Talk about yummy—like I said, the best we had on the whole trip!

We Went EVERYWHERE Today!!!

 Our first stop today was the museum near where the first women’s rights convention was held. This site is maintained by the rangers of the Eastern National Park System. Our guide was Meghan; she was young and knowledgeable and easy to listen to. This museum was full of information on women’s rights through the years, from the very beginning with Elizabeth Cady-Stanton to the present. The information was given on posts in the upstairs of the museum. I had no idea so many women worked so hard to “set us free.”

The next stop on the tour was the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Viewing a picture of Stanton when she was older, she reminded me of “anyone’s grandmother.” She hardly seemed the type that would raise a protest sign or cause any trouble, but it seemed she did plenty to help the cause of women’s rights. She and Lucretia Mott met in 1840 in London and formed a fast friendship when they were denied admittance to a convention. Eventually, the women were allowed to sit in the back of the building where the men’s convention was held, and they were to remain quiet and unseen by the men there. Together they decided they were treated much like the slaves. They planned to have a convention of their own, but that wouldn’t happen for 8 years. It was fascinating to learn that Stanton had a large family of her own and wore many hats during her life. She was fortunate to have married a man who supported all her endeavors.

Third stop on today’s tour was the M’Clintock home. I had a hard time following this leg of our journey. I went into the house and viewed some of the contents in the cases. I gather this woman was a friend of Stanton’s and Mott’s, and she certainly had her hands full with children, husband, etc. The women’s convention was planned at the M’Clintock home, I do remember reading/hearing that.

Next on the tour was the home of William Seward, former NY governor, NY state senator, U.S. senator, etc. This was a place I could have stayed in much longer! The home was absolutely gorgeous, I was so impressed that a family would keep so many of their things, and was awed by the fact that Wm. III decided that the house should be a museum and not pass down to more family members. The story of Seward was extremely interesting: from marrying the daughter of a judge and then living with his father-in-law for 27 years, to becoming involved in politics, to the story of his being attacked on the night Abe Lincoln was assassinated; he lived a very full life and contributed much to America. He is best-known for the purchase of Alaska. At one point during his life, that was referred to as “Seward’s Folly.” Little did we know at that time how valuable Alaska would become to the rest of the country. I guess he knew all along what was at stake–forests, lakes, all kinds of natural resources would be available. I had some knowledge of Seward prior to today, but WOW!! It will be so easy to project to my students how valuable he became over the years to America’s progress. And the fact that his house was in his family until 1951–students will more readily relate to something like that because it’s closer in proximity to our time.

Lastly, we settled in for a 1.5 hour tour of the Erie Canal and it was definitely worth the time. The boat ride was relaxing, the surroundings peaceful and beautiful, and going through the lock was very educational. Our tour guide was entertaining, the music was fun to listen to, and all in all, it was a great part of the day.

Although we had a lot crammed in today, the information we were presented with will be extremely helpful in our 8th grade curriculum. We cover women’s rights during this year and we also cover Roosevelt and the building of the Panama Canal, so explaining to students how we went through the lock at the Erie Canal will be GREAT! We can compare the Erie Canal to the Panama Canal and I can show them the pictures I took going through the lock.

Cooperstown: NBHOF, Fenimore Art Museum, Farmers’ Museum

6/13/10: Today was a full but very fun day! We began by going to the National Baseball Hallof Fame. So many memories came back while walking through the exhibits! I have always been a diehard baseball fan but didn’t realize even to what extent until I saw all the faces and names of countless players I’ve watched over the years. I am so impressed with the way the displays were laid out, the information contained in them. I spent time in the area where Henry (Hank) Aaron was featured. That was an eye opener: to think of all he went through to play a game he loved as much as he did baseball. He left home at 18, against his mother’s wishes, and headed to the city to play ball. There were interviews with him regarding all the threats and discrimination he faced. Thank God things are not like that today (at least not for the most part, although some discrimination does still exist).

The Fenimore art museum was very nice and I enjoyed the exhibit on womens fashions the most. And wandering through, I found out that Cooperstown was named after James Fenimore Cooper’s family—had no idea of that before then.

The Farmers’ Museum was nice but a little bit of a disappointment. I thought we were going to be treated to something similar to Sturbridge Village–a hands on kind of place. Walking through, it was great talking to the various workers and watching the blacksmith make a nail, but I had hoped we would be able to do something ourselves. The grounds were certainly well-kept!

Sagamore Hill/Home of T. Roosevelt

6/12/10: Today was a day well spent! We ventured to the home of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States. At first glance, the property is beautiful; very lush, green, and surrounded by a variety of flora and fauna! The house was very large and while on the tour of the inside, I was struck by the size of the rooms. The staircases were larger (wider) than some we’ve seen over the years, and the upstairs rooms were large in size and had plenty of windows, making the rooms bright and cheery. I knew Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman but had no idea the scope of his love of animals, hides, heads, etc. Touring the home, it became apparent that T.R. also was an avid reader, as evidenced by the number of books found throughout. We asked our guide about this, and she stated that T.R. had over 6,000 books at one time. Most of the books were stored in various places around the property and some were displayed in the study upstairs (aka the gun room). It seems as though we had a great understanding of T.R. by the time we left. The guide spent a good deal of time talking about his love of family, children, grandchildren, and the fact that every evening the family would dine together and talk about the day’s events. She also pointed out that T.R. would stop each day, promptly at 4:00, and spend time with his children. They would take rides or walks, play games, and he was very close to his family. Another thing I was reminded of was the fact that T.R’s first wife passed away two days after giving birth to their daughter, Alice. T.R. named the baby Alice, after her mother, but he would call her “Sister” the rest of his life, never wanting to refer to his late wife. The same day T.R’s wife passed away his mother also died. It would be hard to imagine the grief he would have felt.

I believe that our guide said there was a website for the Sagamore Hill home, and I think students would gain a clear understanding of Theodore Roosevelt if they could view this website.  I did purchase a small book and some postcards to show to students, in case nothing else is available. One lesson that would be fairly easy to teach would be to compare and contrast the life of T.R. He had many faces; father, grandfather, rough rider, president, politician, husband. It would be fascinating to delve more into his life as a rough rider. If I remember correctly, this was the area where he felt he was the most use during his life.

NY Historical Society/Museum of Natural History

6/11/10: We began the day at the New York Historical Society building and were greeted warmly by our museum curator. For the life of me, I can’t think of her name! Anyway, she gave us an overview of our subject for the morning: how New York was divided over the issue of the Civil War. One of the activities we completed was very FUN and it would be a great thing to do with our students: we picked an item we thought had been used by people involved with slavery, and we had to tell how/why that object was used. We then had to come up with three questions we would ask our students about this object. It would be so easy to project a group of items on the promethean board, ask each student to pick which item they think would fit the topic, and then have them explain. The rest of the morning was spent going through a wonderful notebook that was given to us by the NYHS staff. The notebook appears to be quite comprehensive.

The afternoon, at least a couple of hours, was spent wandering through the Museum of Natural History. I must confess I am not much “into” this kind of museum, so it was hard to feign an interest. I was fascinated by the model of the blue whale that took up a huge space. He was massive! I’m not exactly sure how I would bring this particular exhibit into my classroom to use with students.

Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty

6/10/10: Anybody reading this blog is going to think I am a dumb old lady, but today when we went by the Statue of Liberty, the tears flowed and I just couldn’t help myself. I have always been patriotic, almost to a fault, and seeing that grand lady in the harbor just made my heart proud. I took so many pictures I’m sure my family will think I have gone overboard, but this was a sight I’ve always wanted to see. We were not able to go up inside the statue and I can honestly say I’m not terribly disappointed in that fact. Connie and I walked all the way around the statue, took in her grandeur, and read the placards placed around her. It was amazing to see how much work went into placing her in the harbor and how many dollars it took (all the money was raised from private donations) to get her put together. To think that France would give such a gift, and then to think how things have changed from then til now, is truly mind-boggling. I wish I could instill in my students a sense of the same patriotism that I have. It disturbs me that some students are “upset” or “impatient” when they have to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school each morning. They would have a different attitude if they really understood the price our forefathers paid for our freedom, and the price we are still paying today.

In my classes, I will be sure to show these pictures to each of my classes. I will ask them to reflect on how the statue got there, what it symbolizes to our country, and what their reaction would be if anything happened to that grand lady. I would ask them to reflect on their own patriotism and ask them to define it for me.

As far as Ellis Island goes, I can honestly say this place was very different from what I expected it to be. Our social studies text contains only a small section on immigration  at this particular place, and I thought it painted a pretty clear picture of what went on there. Wow! After having the tour, I can see that there is so much more to offer my students in terms of information about immigrants and how they were processed into our country. For example, I had no idea that the biggest percentage of immigrants spent an average of 3.5 hours there. I thought they spent more like 3.5 days there! Seeing the rooms and the massive buildings that were on Ellis Island was an eye opener. I had seen pictures of the Great Hall before but had no idea of the many different things that went on there. I was glad to know that most immigrants were treated with dignity, and treated by the best doctors and nurses in the country. It was heartwrenching to stand in the large, sunny room with the beautiful view only to learn that this was the last stop for the immigrants who came to this room: most were terminally ill and would never leave this room. But, it was comforting to know their last days were spent in a room as pleasant as this one.

I wish every American would have the opportunity to come and visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I think it might raise the level of patriotism in our country and might change the attitudes of some who protest that we are fighting in foreign lands. I have a daughter in the U.S. Army. While she is not fighting on the front lines, I am very proud of her service to her country. America must keep fighting for freedom!