Jul 4, 2008

From the Macomb Journal:

Dr. Rich Filipink, Assistant Professor of History at WIU, and Dr. Larry Balsamo, Chair Emeritus and Professor Emeritus in Western's History Department, led a group of secondary school history teachers on a travel-study trip to New York City in June. Suellyn Rieckelman, Jesse Risley, and Ryan Wilson from Macomb High School and Dale Mansir from West Prairie Junior High joined 28 secondary history teachers in greater New York City for the eight-day learning experience.

The travel was funded by a U.S. Department of Education's "Teaching American History" grant. This is the final year of the second grant, which covers a three-year time-frame and is in the amount of $581,019. Regional Offices of Education serving 21 counties in West-Central Illinois receive services, with the fiscal agent for the grant being the Regional Office of Education No. 26 in Macomb. The purpose of the grant is to provide the U.S. History teachers with an on-site and close connection with major historical events that have shaped our nation's history.

The guidelines of the grant require a partnering agency with in-depth historical knowledge to become a sub-contractor and to provide the historical expertise for the teachers. Western Illinois University's History Department has been the partnering agency and has provided all of the expertise for this grant, the previous grant, and a third three-year grant that begins this Fall. Dr. Virginia Boynton, Interim Chair of the Department of History, works closely with the management component of the grant with Dr. Larry Balsamo, former History Department Chair, who leads the historical on-site travels. This year he was joined by Dr. Richard Filipink, Assistant Professor in U.S. History, who is a native New Yorker and was able to offer first-hand knowledge as the teachers traveled.

Dr. Barry Witten, professor in the curriculum and Instruction department at WIU, has the challenging task of working directly with the teachers to compile all of the required work the teachers complete in an edited fashion and to reproduce the teachers' work on a CD. Tom Murray, WIU alum, Chair Emeritus of the Glenbard South High School Social Studies Department, and one of the evaluators for the grant, traveled with the teachers and worked to develop the questions the teachers will use to pre-test their students early this fall, teach the materials from the trip to their students, and then post-test the students to assure that the knowledge the teachers gained will increase their students' learning. The CD is then distributed to all 109 junior high and high schools in the 26 county area as well as the Federal Department of Education.

The teachers visited seven museums: Museum of New York City, American Museum of Natural History, New York Society Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Art Museum, Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Cloisters and Fort Tyron Park. Additional sites visited included museums and homes associated with both President Theodore Roosevelt and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A visit to West Point took the teachers away from the blistering heat of the city. The trip also included a historical tour of Coney Island and visits to two cathedrals -- St. Patrick's and St. Johns. The group toured historical Yankee Stadium during its final year and attended a Mets baseball game at Shea Stadium which is the last year for this stadium too. The teachers took a walk through Chinatown and Little Italy. The views from Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building were spectacular. The group did a walking tour of Central Park seeing Strawberry Fields, Cherry Hill, and Bethesda Terrace followed by dinner at Tavern on the Green. The group was impressed with the boat tour to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island. The financial district included a stop at Ground Zero and a visit to St. Paul's church.

In addition, the teachers attended the improv show "Eight is Never Enough" and walked down Fifth Avenue to see FAO Swartz, Tiffany's, Trump Tower and the NBA store. Part of the group attended the taping of David Letterman while the rest of the group toured Radio City Music Hall. The Broadway Musical, "Wicked" was a thrill for everyone. They also spent time with the cast after the production. The teachers appeared on the CBS Early Show briefly and may appear on the new version of Candid Camera, "Got Cha" to air in August with Mario Lopez being the person who "got" the group coming from the New York City museum in their look-alike blue shirts. The final evening in New York City included a Spirit Dinner Cruise which provided a view of the Statue of Liberty at night.

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