Last year, CICS Ralph Ellison teacher Jon Gibfried took a professional development course through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He never thought that this simple course would open the door for he and fellow teacher Aaron Marshall to implement a Hamilton themed program and join 40 CICS Ralph Ellison students for a special performance of Hamilton! An American Musical.
Through his connection to Gilder Lehrman he learned about the Hamilton Curriculum, a special program offered to Title I schools through a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation. The curriculum includes resources for educators and scholars to learn about American history including Hamilton and other historic figures of that era.
“We received 40 booklets with an introduction to Lin Manuel Miranda, and to Ron Chernow, who wrote the book who inspired the musical. Gilder Lehrman offered a special website with additional clips and other historical resources. We also showed students a documentary that had aired on PBS about the making of Hamilton,” says Gibfried
As part of the program students were asked to explore the resources and create their own original pieces inspired by what they had learned. Students could pick an event, a person, or any inspiration from the sources provided. Together they explored themes of historical accuracy vs. historical integrity.
“I hope that our students learned that history is based on concrete facts and events and people, there is still room to be creative in the way that you tell the story,” says Marshall.
After researching students worked in small groups to create their own songs, dance performances, skits, and other pieces inspired by what they had learned.
The students performed their pieces at the CICS Ralph Ellison campus and 40 students were chosen based on their work during the program and the artistic pieces created to attend Hamilton on February 22 at The PrivateBank Theatre.
Even more, CICS Ralph Ellison scholar, Elaycia M. was among 13 students selected to perform her original piece on the Hamilton Stage (out of the thousands across Chicago who participated)!
We are so proud of our CICS Ralph Ellison scholars and teachers. Congratulations and well done!