The National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History workshops, titled "Clinton's Ditch: the Erie Canal in Western New York," will be hosted at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn. Two sessions will be held: July 21-28 and Aug. 4-11.
The Erie Canal may no longer carry the cargo and passengers of yesteryear, but this artificial river is hardly irrelevant. As the 200th anniversary of its construction approaches, interest in the waterway has spawned a unique learning opportunity right here in Western New York.
This July and August, NCCC will host a diverse group of 80 K-12 educators from around the nation as they join with university and museum scholars to conduct two one-week explorations of the Erie Canal. Throughout the week, participants will engage with experts in history, literature, art history, music, science and education in both classroom sessions and historic site-visits along the canal corridor.
Project director Pierson Bell said the workshop will help educators see the broad impacts of the canal on American society.
"Many people who grew up in Western New York are familiar with the canal's importance as a transportation artery and the engineering challenges that confronted its builders," Bell said. "What is less known is how the canal influenced notions of American identity and culture and, as a contributing factor to the Market Revolution, brought about social and economic transformations on a national level."
"Clinton's Ditch: the Erie Canal in Western New York" is a Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop, a series of summer programs funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"Being selected to host a NEH workshop is a great honor," said Bell, a history teacher at Medina High School. "The grant process was hyper-competitive and Niagara County Community College was the only community college in the nation that was awarded a Landmarks grant in 2013."
For many participants, their attendance will mark their first trip to the Buffalo area and "Clinton's Ditch" will highlight the best of Western New York. Because the Erie Canal transformed the City of Buffalo from a frontier town into one of America's wealthiest cities, educators will tour Buffalo's Erie Canal harbor and the city's distinguished architecture. The difficulty of transcending the scenic Niagara Escarpment will be on display during tours of Lockport's "Flight of Five" locks and a cruise through locks 34 and 35. Participants will also tour canal landmarks in Rochester and Syracuse.
Teachers who take part in the workshop were chosen from a competitive applicant pool. Throughout the week, these educators will collaborate with each other to bring the knowledge they gain into their classrooms.
"Workshops such as the NEH Landmarks series are invaluable professional development opportunities," Bell said. "Rarely do teachers have the opportunity to study content in-depth alongside university professors or museum experts. Professional development workshops that allow teachers to become students again and engage in content-rich dialogue with colleagues and scholars are what teachers need for the new common core standards to be successful."
For more information about "Clinton's Ditch: the Erie Canal in Western New York," visit www.eriecanalwny.org.