When Dr. Thomas Chambers sent out a February request for K-12 teachers nationwide to apply for a summer residential program that will investigate the storied history of Old Fort Niagara, he was uncertain of what type of response he would receive.
In the end, Chambers, chair of Niagara University's history department and director of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded program, received more than 200 applications from educators in 38 states seeking to participate in "Crossroads of Empire: Cultural Contact and Imperial Rivalry at Old Fort Niagara."
"We were extremely pleased with how quickly word got out about the 'Crossroads' program, which led to a very rich supply of deserving candidates," noted Chambers, who sits on planning committee for the War of 1812 Bicentennial, and is chairman of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
Of the 200 applicants, 80 were selected for the weeklong residential sessions, which take place July 11-15 and July 18-22 at Old Fort Niagara and Niagara University.
And in a testament to the quality of local K-12 educational institutions, 19 of the awards were dispersed to teachers working in Western New York schools.
Congratulations to the following teachers:
Directed by Chambers, the workshops will be focused on the vital history that emanated from Old Fort Niagara, one of most significant and well-preserved 18th century historic sites in North America. Fort Niagara served as an important crossroads between the empires of Great Britain, France, the Haudenosaunee (the native people who inhabited what is now much of New York state and surrounding areas), and, later, the U.S. as they battled each other for control of the North American continent. The fort threatened American territory during the Revolution, was occupied by both sides during the War of 1812, and then a peace treaty secured the fort and region for the U.S.
This workshop will immerse NEH summer scholars in the world of 18th century life, from both the Native American and European perspective. Participants will interact with historic interpreters, clamber about ramparts dating to the 1700s, handle beaver pelts and trade goods like fishhooks and beads, and perhaps even fire a musket. One unique feature will be an overnight stay at the French Castle, the three-story stone fortress and trading post perched above the crashing waves of Lake Ontario that dates back to 1726. By week's end NEH summer scholars will understand the perspective of the Iroquois people who first inhabited this region, as well as the struggles of ordinary European soldiers who bled and died to control Fort Niagara.
Teachers eligible for the program were those working in K-12 classrooms at schools in the U.S. or its territorial possessions, or Americans teaching in foreign schools where at least 50 percent of the students are American nationals.
Teachers selected to participate as NEH summer scholars will receive a stipend of $1,200 at the end of the residential workshop session. Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location, books and ordinary living expenses.
Niagara University is located 11 miles south of Old Fort Niagara.