Thursday, May 2, 2013
The National Park Club of New York Harbor High School kicked off National Park Week with its first trip outside New York City to explore the fascinating sites surrounding Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. Led by social studies teacher Rob Markuske and park rangers Kevin Credo and Collin Bell from Governors Island National Monument, the club normally visits National Park Service sites around the New York City learning about how the NPS protects these valuable resources. Composed of students of the New York Harbor School, a maritime-themed public high school drawing students from across the city and focusing on environmental conservation, each excursion is meant to facilitate a discussion about stewardship, a mutual goal of both island neighbors.
In Philadelphia, the club dove head first into the past, stepping straight off the bus into Independence Hall. Volunteer-In-Park Al Cavalari not only engaged the students in the stories of the famous events that took place in the building, but also some forgotten characters of American history. The students were especially interested in the story of Caesar Rodney, whose desperate ride to Philadelphia to vote for independence is now commemorated by the Delaware state quarter.
After another great interpretive program in Congress Hall, the home of the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, the club headed to lunch for some of the students very first Philly cheesesteak! After a short break and the nourishment of the delicious local cuisine, the club moved on to visit the Liberty Bell, a highlight for many members of the group. Gathered around the bell, the students listened intently as Park Ranger Mike Doneton gave a great talk on its history, and provided some valuable insight into how this simple bell became a powerful symbol of freedom.
The trip concluded with a visit to the President’s House site, where students learned about the challenges of telling the story of both George Washington and the nine slaves he brought to Philadelphia during his residence in the city. As future advocates for environmental conservation, the students learned a valuable lesson about communicating to the public about an issue that is both complicated and potentially controversial.
After taking a few moments to reflect on the day’s activities, NPS Club packed up and headed back to New York City, satisfied with a successful adventure in Philadelphia and having learned, as Harbor School student William wrote about his first time experience with Philly's culture and cuisine “about our great country’s history and how tasty their local food was!”