Princeton Seminar Is About To Kick-Off Its Fourth Year

36167-nassau_hall_princetonNext week I will be at Princeton University to lead a Gilder-Lehrman Institute seminar of the “Colonial Era” for history teachers.  This is the fourth year that I have joined my partner in crime, 2010 National Teacher of the Year Nate McAlister, in leading this seminar. The Princeton Seminar (as we call it) has become one of the professional highlights of my year.

Stay tuned for updates as the week progresses.  In the meantime, here are some pics from previous Princeton seminars:

Welcome Park

The 2015 Princeton Seminar at Welcome Park in Philadelphia

Boudreau

George Boudreau of LaSalle University, the man who many believe to be the greatest tour guide of colonial Philadelphia that has ever lived, will be back in 2017!

McCalister

Nate likes to take the teachers into Einstein’s old classroom

Witherspoon

There is plenty of time for impromptu tours of the 18th-century Princeton campus

Documents

Teachers spend a lot of time working with primary sources

Fithian Wall

The teachers read The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  The ghost of Philip Vickers Fithian (Princeton class of 1772) hovers over the events of the week

Cemetery

Our visit to the Princeton Cemetery (Aaron Burr, Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon, etc.) is always a highlight–rain or shine.

Wheatley

One my favorite moments of the week is when we take the teachers to Firestone Library to look at rare 18th-century books

Lecture

And yes, there is the occasional lecture

The Princeton Seminar is Back!

nassay

On July 23-July 29, 2017 we will gather together with a group of K-8 teachers to study Colonial America.  I hope you will consider joining us.  Learn how to apply here.

LOCATION

Princeton University

DIRECTORS

John Fea, Professor of History, Messiah College

OVERVIEW

Rather than thinking about colonial America as a necessary forerunner to the American Revolution or the birth of the United States, we will make an effort to understand British colonial life on its own terms, examining how the colonies developed from remote seventeenth-century English outposts to well-connected eighteenth-century provinces of the British Empire. In the process we will critique the so-called “Whig” interpretation of the colonies and think together about how this particular period in the American past provides a laboratory for teaching historical-thinking skills in the K–8 classroom.

TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATIONS

Participants will be staying at Princeton University in Princeton, NJ. Princeton is equidistant from New York City and Philadelphia and is easily accessible by train. The nearest airport is Newark Liberty International Airport. For more information on travel to Princeton, please click here.

Workshop participants will stay in on-campus residence halls in their own room, but share bathrooms and common space on each floor. The university provides basic bedding and towels only. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, shower shoes, hangers, irons, and hair dryers. Participants should plan to bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited.

MEALS

Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.

COURSE REVIEWS FROM PAST PARTICIPANTS

“Dr. John Fea did a remarkable job sharing his knowledge in the area of the 13 colonies. His passion for history is evident in his lectures and I am more motivated today to teach tomorrow. I have always been intimidated by the 13 colonies because each colony’s background is so diverse. I have a better grasp on the colonies and I will be able to share primary documents to support the classroom learning. I am looking forward to teaching this in the coming weeks.”

“Thoroughly enjoyed the week in NJ. Strengthened my content background & walked away with tons of resources (primary specifically) to take back to my classroom.”

“This seminar was the best thing I have experienced in 25 years of teaching. Dr. Fea was outstanding and his lectures were riveting. I appreciated the content, the setting, and the master teacher’s assistance. It was amazing and memorable. I will certainly be applying this content and these principles to my teaching this year.”

GRADUATE CREDIT

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit to participating seminar teachers. For more information, please click here.

QUESTIONS?

Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

When
July 23rd, 2017 5:00 PM   through   July 29th, 2017 9:00 AM
Location
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
United States

The Reach of the Princeton Seminar Extends to Shelby County, Alabama!

Ann Jay

If you read The Way of Improvement Leads Home regularly you know that for the past three summers I have spent a week in Princeton, New Jersey leading a week-long seminar for teachers on the subject of colonial America.  The seminar is sponsored by The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of America History and it draws history teachers from around the country.

This year one of our more enthusiastic and engaged participants was Ann Jay Harrison, a veteran fifth-grade social studies teacher from Shelby County, Alabama.  It was a pleasure getting to know her.  I was inspired by her zeal for learning and her love of history.

My introduction to Ann Jay came through this tweet, written about a week before the seminar began:

And then there was this tweet from back in May:

I didn’t think too much about this tweet until the seminar began and I learned that Ann Jay has a side business AS A TRAVEL AGENT!!!!! 🙂

When Ann Jay returned home after the seminar she did an interview about her experience with The Shelby County Reporter.

Here is a taste:

When Thompson Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher Ann Jay Harrison began the 2016-2017 school year on August 11, she said she had a renewed passion for what she was doing.

“This is my 26th year teaching.  All of a sudden, I am so excited again about teaching in the classroom,” Harrison said.  “It definitely renewed my passion.”

From July 24-29, Harrison was one of only 35 teachers from across the nation who was chosen to attend a Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at Princeton University.

The seminar focused on American history before the Revolutionary War, and sought to strengthen teachers’ use of promoting primary sources in their students’ work.

Read the rest here.

I should also add that most of the credit for Ann Jay’s experience with primary sources belongs to my partner-in-crime Nathan McAlister, the Princeton Seminar’s master teacher and coordinator.

The “Caffeinated Teacher” on the Princeton Seminar

Class Pic

For the past three summers I have had the privilege of spending a week on the campus of Princeton University with a group of history teachers.  We call ourselves “The Princeton Seminar,” but it would be more accurate to identify our group as the Gilder-Lehrman Institute Summer Seminar on the “13 Colonies.”

Last week thirty-five teachers from around the country converged on Princeton to study the British mainland colonies.  Our Gilder-Lehrman-appointed leader is the indispensable Nate McAlister, the 2010 National History Teacher of the Year.  I spend about four hours a day with the teachers. Nate does everything else, from getting them settled in their dorm rooms to helping them prepare their required lessons plans and teaching them historical thinking skills.

In addition to our lectures, discussions, and Gilder-Lehrman historical thinking sessions, we take a day-long tour of colonial Philadelphia and an evening tour of early American Princeton.  We read Alan Taylor’s American Colonies, George Boudreau’s Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia (to prepare them for their tour of Philadelphia), and my own The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.

The Fithian book is particularly relevant to the week at Princeton.  As many of you know, Fithian was a 1772 graduate of the College of New Jersey and my book situates his life in the history of the college.  It is fun watching teachers see Nassau Hall after reading about it in the book.  One teacher was so excited about Fithian that she spent some of her free time in the Firestone Library looking at some of his papers and letters.

We also spend a couple of hours in the Firestone rare book room.  I have the curators pull out some seventeenth and eighteenth-century classics by Penn, Locke, Mather, Wheatley, Richardson, Sterne, Whitefield, Edwards, and Franklin along with many of the more obscure books Fithian read while he was a student at the college in the 1770s and a tutor on the Virginia plantation of Robert Carter III.

We also spend a couple of hours in the cemetery of the Nassau Presbyterian Church.  I usually give the teachers a short lecture at the gravestones of Aaron Burr Sr., Aaron Burr Jr,, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, Samuel Finley, and John Witherspoon.  The teachers also love seeing the burial place of Grover Cleveland and his daughter “Baby Ruth.”

And then there are the informal times of conversations–perhaps the highlight of the week.  These take place in the dining hall (on some nights we tend to linger over mugs of  of coffee until they kick us out), on walks through campus, and at the famous Yankee Doodle Tap Room in downtown Princeton.  I learn a lot from these informal conversations and always gain a greater appreciation for the front-line work  that these teachers do.  It is heroic work.  It is good work.  It is dignified work.  And, unfortunately, it is sometimes thankless work.  Let’s not forget that these teachers, and history teachers like them, are in the business of preparing the next generation of democratic citizens.

Nassau Inn 2

One of the participants in this summer’s Princeton Seminar is known online as the “Caffeinated Teacher.”  She has written a nice blog post on her experience.  Here is a taste:

The Gilder Lehrman sessions were run by the fabulous Nate, a master teacher with GLI. His task was to run the teachers in the group through how to set up the type of lessons we would be creating by the end of the week. They were really fun and informative and I’m glad to say I learned a couple of new teaching strategies as well. I loved seeing lessons that Nate had created for his own students and then learning how we could adapt even difficult primary sources down for the youngest of learners. I think sometimes our inclination is to say it will be too hard for kindergarten through second or third graders and these sessions really challenged that notion which I vastly appreciated (I am well known for pushing kids farther than they think they can go). 

Meal Times 
Seriously…despite all of the walking around I did, I’m sure I gained at least a few pounds (I didn’t check when I got home because I didn’t want to know!) from all of the yummy deliciousness offered in the cafeteria. All of our meals were provided and there were tons of choices every day. A lot of summer camps for elementary, middle and high school students were also ongoing so it wasn’t uncommon to see kiddos sneaking ice cream at the end of breakfast too 🙂 In all seriousness, however, the vast availability of choices was much appreciated. The best part of the meals was the opportunity to sit with different members of our group, including Dr. Fea and Nate, and learn about them and their teaching situations. We really became like a family during the six days we were together. 
Read the entire post here.

Colonial History in DNC-Infested Philadelphia

Yesterday I spent the day in Philadelphia with thirty-six history teachers from around the country.  These teachers were chosen by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History to join me and Nate McAlister, the 2010 National History Teacher of the Year, to participate in a six day summer seminar at Princeton University.  This is the third year we have conducted this seminar.  We call it The Princeton Seminar.  You can see what we are up to by following us @princetonsemnr

This year our day-trip to Philadelphia coincided with the Democratic National Convention. We took a lot of pictures.  Here are some of them:

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While waiting for our bus I read the teachers some interesting material on George Whitefield from an article by historian Jessica Parr

 

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We sat in DNC-related traffic on Route 95 and got into the city late.  As you can tell, I was not happy about it.

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We made it to Philadelphia. Our tour guide John Ingram was ready to go!

Dean

This pic was taken about two minutes after I tried, unsuccessfully, to chase down former Vermont Governor Howard Dean to thank him for his very funny ending to his DNC speech on Tuesday night

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I met a very enthusiastic DNC delegate from Texas  Could not resist the pic

Indy

Our teachers loved touring Independence Hall

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Not everyone was happy that the DNC was in Philadelphia.  This flag flew in Elfreth’s Alley

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Standing on Market Street.  Notice what is behind me

 

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Standing on Market Street.  Independence Hall was behind me (see pic above).  THIS is what was in front of me. (I will let you draw conclusions)

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End of the day: Some very tired history teachers

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Our fearless leader, Nate McAlister, makes sure all the teachers made it back to our rendezvous point

Time “Traveling” Again

Time TRavelSome of you may remember my post about the fatigue that historians can suffer moving intellectually between two eras.   I wrote it in February during my stint as a visiting scholar at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.   Historians immerse themselves in the past, but they are always thinking about the past in the context of their lives in the present.  This kind of “time travel” (if you can call it that) often takes a lot of mental work.

This week I am in Princeton, New Jersey leading a seminar on colonial America for about 35 history teachers who have come here from various places around the country.  I spend most of the day talking about 17th and 18th century North America with this talented group of educators.  At night I have turned to twitter (@johnfea1) in an effort to provide some historical context for the Democratic National Convention.

Yesterday it was the colonial Chesapeake. Last night it was political speeches by people like Cory Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.  Tomorrow we will be in colonial New England.  (As if the move from the tobacco-servant-slave Chesapeake to Puritan Massachusetts Bay is not hard enough).

I think I need a nap.

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute Princeton Seminar on "The 13 Colonies" is Back!


If you are a K-8 teacher and are looking for a professional development opportunity this summer mark your calendars for July 24-30, 2016.  Consider applying for our Gilder-Lehrman Institute summer seminar on “The 13 Colonies” at Princeton University.

Some blog posts from previous years.

Learn more about how to apply for the seminar here.  

Here are few endorsements from K-8 teachers:

  • “Dr. John Fea did a remarkable job sharing his knowledge in the area of the 13 colonies. His passion for history is evident in his lectures and I am more motivated today to teach tomorrow. I have always been intimidated by the 13 colonies because each colony’s background is so diverse. I have a better grasp on the colonies and I will be able to share primary documents to support the classroom learning. I am looking forward to teaching this in the coming weeks.”
  • “Thoroughly enjoyed the week in NJ. Strengthened my content background & walked away with tons of resources (primary specifically) to take back to my classroom.”
  • “This seminar was the best thing I have experienced in 25 years of teaching. Dr. Fea was outstanding and his lectures were riveting. I appreciated the content, the setting, and the master teacher’s assistance. It was amazing and memorable. I will certainly be applying this content and these principles to my teaching this year.”