The Traveling Teacher: Philadelphia

About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.
The Author, hanging out with a few Founding Fathers in Philadelphia

The Author, hanging out with a few Founding Fathers in Philadelphia

Like you, I’ve done many things throughout the summers “off.” I’ve worked with kids. I’ve avoided them like I’m being inoculated during July. I’ve worked small jobs. I’ve worked big ones. But, in the end, I’ve always worked somehow, someway.

Not this summer.

I was selected for 2 different teacher study tours, will travel to the National Educators Association (NEA) elective counsel in Denver, and will go on plenty of trips with my wife in between. I plan on documenting many of these education-based travels this summer, beginning with a 5-day trip to one of the great cities in my backyard – Philadelphia.

 

Why Philadelphia: The “City of Brotherly Love” is richer in early American history than just about any other city in the United States. The site of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitutional Convention, the capital of one of the most open-minded colonies, and the busiest port outside of London, there were plenty of people and a wealth of history located here

Where to stay: My wife and I stayed at the Downtown Marriot in Center City Philadelphia, and we’d recommend that. There’s not much of a Bed & Breakfast scene in Philly, but there are Air B&B options, too.

When to go: If you’re trying to avoid crowds, don’t go at the end of the school year (early June) or around Independence Day (early July)

How to get there: Train is very convenient up-and-down the East Coast. Flying into PHL International isn’t the best (it’s been documented as the world’s slowest, most delayed airport), but there aren’t many options.

Who to go with: Family-friendly, small groups of teachers, and your significant other are all highly recommended.

What to do:

1.*Visit the Independence Lawn – an early American history teacher’s dream are within the walls of Independence Hall. Stand in the room where Hancock presided over the Declaration of Independence and formal break with England, which is also the same room where Washington presided over a (n illegal) meeting of Founders to scrap the Articles of Confederation and start anew. Next door, you’ll see where the government met until Washington, DC was completed, and also a great nearby find was the American Philosopher’s Society building, which currently has all 4 pages of the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson sent Richard Henry Lee for editing.

2.*Go to the National Constitution Center – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as keen on the ConCtr as most of my peers. I just feel like it’s too quick of a tour for such an elaborately large building. There are great aspects to it, though, like the “We The People” live presentation at the beginning of your tour (if you don’t leave with a ripple of goose bumps and a tear in your eye, well, then you might not have been paying attention). There’s also Founder Hall, where you can stand with life-size statues of the delegates. Here you’ll see a photo of me giving the South Carolinian delegation bunny ears (as I’m not a fan over their perpetuation of slavery with the document).

3.Say hello to the Liberty Bell – That fabled carillon that spread the news of an American republic you’ll find has more myth and legend to it than facts; still, it’s quite an impressive piece of history to behold. Two million people last year (who visited the Bell) seem to agree.

4.Take your kids to the Franklin Institute – Not much for history? You (and your kids) will love the Franklin Institute. It’s expensive to visit ($18.50 for adults, $14.50 for kids), but the electricity, physics behind sports, giant heart, movies, and traveling exhibits will make this a staple of your stay.

5.Leave your kids at home for the Mutter Museum (pronounced MEUT-er) – Seriously. This museum dedicated to the study of the human body is not for the faint of heart. There are preserved fetuses, the Siamese twins’ connecting liver, Civil War medicine, and the largest colon you could ever imagine. Can’t believe one guy brought his 2-year-old here while my wife and I toured the place.

6.Wander the Reading Terminal Market for lunch – an old train station’s market continues its nearly 150-year tradition of serving Philly’s folks. Go here for a DiNic’s roasted pork sandwich (most of the locals will talk up pork than the famed Philly Cheesesteak, believe it or not) or fresh veggies for the kids.

7.Visit the Grand Masonic Lodge of Pennsylvania – As a Freemason, I’m often perturbed by the whole “secret organization” label of our craft. One of the most impressive lodges in the world leaves its doors open for you right on the Center City Square, across from City Hall. It’s beautiful and features a tour from a Brother.

8.Go behind bars at Eastern State Penitentiary – considered the nation’s first “modern prison,” it was focused on reforming the imprisoned rather than punishing them. Abandoned in the 1970s (it was getting too small and there was a turn away from solitary confinement), this is now the site of constant historical tours as well as some of the most nightmare-worthy Halloween tours in October.

9.Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art – Go ahead, Rocky! Run the stairs! Yo Adrienne! Then step inside to see some of the great regulars. Manet fans will be in heaven, while impressionists and cubists will also take delight. The special exhibits are also fantastic: currently, a focus is on several, including Picasso prints

10.Take a hike to Valley Forge – about ½ an hour or more away is Valley Forge, site of the infamous winter encampment. Have some time outside of the great food and sites to take in? Head a bit north to meet Washington once more.

 

Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of our Traveling Teacher series. Up next – the NEA Convention in Denver!

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By | 2016-11-01T14:14:12+00:00 June 25th, 2014|Featured, Social Studies|3 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Jake Miller teaches middle school history near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, WeAreTeachers, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

3 Comments

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