I can’t tell you how many times a visitor has said to me, “I remember coming here when I was in fourth grade!” And you know what? It never gets old! Every time I hear that statement I am reminded of how much we here at Pennsbury Manor have to celebrate during National Teachers Week. Behind every student who ever came to Pennsbury Manor on a field trip is a teacher who worked to make that memory possible.
Every spring, our buildings and grounds come to life with the hustle and bustle of school tours. This is a yearly occurrence that dates back to Pennsbury Manor’s early days as a museum. And while our educational programs have changed and evolved over the last seventy-five years, one thing remains the same – the passion and dedication of the teachers who bring their students here each year. As the Education Program Coordinator, it is my great pleasure to talk with our teachers and help them plan their fieldtrips. Along the way, I find out what it is about our program that brings them back each year.
Elementary school teachers are tasked with teaching state history to our youngest Pennsylvanians in a fun, interactive way. That is what brings Heather Ryan, a fourth grade teacher at Oxford Valley Elementary School, to Pennsbury Manor each spring. On our annual William Penn Day, Heather’s students learn about the founding of our Commonwealth while participating in hands-on activities and living history demonstrations at their own pace. They can even catch a glimpse of Governor Penn himself! Heather says, “Pennsbury Manor is an amazing opportunity to bring history to life! Every year our fourth graders love this field trip. The interactive experiences provide an open window into the world of William Penn. Our students always express excitement when they hear and see everything they have learned about colonial life and William Penn. In addition, it is a great all inclusive trip that is easily coordinated! We plan to continue our field trips to Pennsbury Manor for many years!”
But the story we tell is also meaningful to those students who live beyond our state borders. Dr. Ed Kennedy, Principal of Seely Place School, brings his students to Pennsbury Manor all the way from Scarsdale, New York as part of a three night trip to Philadelphia: “We have been taking our fifth grade students to Pennsbury Manor for the last fifteen years because the staff is able to present interactive sessions that are informative, meaningful, and fun. During the day long visit the children learn about colonial life and how different it was from present day comforts.” Dr. Kennedy’s students participate in our “By-the-Day” program, meaning they are the only school group on site that day. This enables them to customize their schedule. During their program, the students learn about William Penn and his legacy, but they also catch a glimpse of the world in which he lived by participating in activities on colonial medicine, cooking, and daily chores.
It is always a delight to talk with teachers who have been coming here for years. But it is also exciting to witness teachers experience Pennsbury Manor with their students for the first time. I saw that excitement in the eyes of Betsy Rizza, Erik Hove, and Margie Gibson, third grade teachers from Princeton Day School in New Jersey. The third grade team, who brought their students to Pennsbury Manor for the first time last fall, sent in this poetic contribution:
“Crackling fire, the aroma of the bubbling soup
The chores to be done in the worker’s cottage
and the garden. The animals to meet.
The winding wooden staircase in the Manor House
The river flowing by ~
The Delaware has seen it all.
Our third graders returned to school with a real sense of this part of William Penn’s world. We were amazed by the discussions that followed our field trip and their wonderful “point of view” journal entries! Our teachers and parents learned as much as our children.
William Penn should know that Pennsbury Manor is in the good hands of caring, committed and knowledgeable educators, thanks to the Pennsbury Manor team. So helpful in the planning stages and so welcoming when we arrived. We look forward to our return next fall!”
As I write this post, I think about you, the reader, and your relationship to Pennsbury Manor. You might be one of those visitors who fell in love with history on a fourth grade fieldtrip. You could be a parent or guardian whose child excitedly told you about his recent experience writing with a quill pen. Finally, I hope some of you are teachers, the ones who strive to give your students the best educational experience, whether it is in the classroom or on a fieldtrip. To the teachers, we say thank you and Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
If you have memories of Pennsbury Manor as a student or a teacher, tell us! We want to hear about your fieldtrip memories.
Education Program Coordinator