Monday, September 13, 2010

Teachers: This is for You!

I’ve been leading tours at the Tenement Museum one day a week for four years, but, as of July 6th, 2010, I’m now a full-time employee. And now I do a LOT more than just lead tours. Every few days, our esteemed vice president of education, Annie Polland, hands me a new duty (thankfully she always waits until I’ve digested the last duty she assigned me.)

Two weeks ago she handed me one of the biggest duties of all: management of our Professional Development Program. In this relatively new series, schoolteachers from across America can visit the Tenement Museum for half- or full-day workshops. We lead the teachers on tours and explain how we’ve made learning fun for students of all ages. We then work with them on lesson plans they can use with their students back home.

It’s a great opportunity for those who aren’t within an easy drive of Manhattan - instead of bringing the class to the Museum, they can use the many resources we offer for classroom instruction.

In the past year we’ve had nearly 300 teachers on this program. We offer eight Professional Development workshops, and a group can choose whichever training session most fits their needs.

“How to Read a Building” shows how to use buildings, architecture, and the decorative arts to understand the past.

In “Housing the Masses,” attendees pretend to be tenement inspectors in 1906. They explore the building, expose violations in building codes, and talk to “tenants” and “the landlord” about why the building is the way it is.

There’s “The Irish Americans” workshop, in which visitors explore that group’s particular immigrant experience. They learn how outsiders viewed the Irish by studying racist anti-immigrant cartoons from the 19th century. If this doesn’t sound relevant to current events, think again: The Irish Potato Famine was the first global human rights cause celebre, and you can find echoes of the responses to the famine and its refugees in today’s popular press.

Feeling peckish, as the English might say? Then go on our “Taste of the Tenement” program, which uses the foods of the Lower East Side to demonstrate how immigrants use cuisine to preserve culture – and how some “ethnic” dishes became American staples.

Storytelling is one of the best ways to teach, and on our “Telling My Story” workshop you’ll learn how conduct your own oral histories.

The “Immigrant Family” workshop shows primary school teachers how to use all the tools at their disposal – artifacts, oral histories, historical documents, and more – to bring history alive for students.

In “How the Other Half Lives” (yes, name inspired by the famous Jacob Riis book), you’ll learn how industrialization shaped day-to-day life for different classes – in radically different ways.

And finally, there’s “Following the Trail,” which follows in the footsteps of immigrants as they travel from their homeland to a new life in America.

As you can see, there's really something for everyone here. To learn more about our teacher training workshops, visit our website, The site hasn't been updated yet, but the next public workshop is November 2. Workshops for a school or a private group of teachers can also be booked. For rates and availability, contact Harrison at 212-431-0233 x241.

- Posted by Adam Steinberg

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