Tonawanda News

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July 21, 2013

NCCC hosting national Erie Canal workshop

Tonawanda News — Niagara County Community College has landed the honor of presenting a “Landmarks of American History” workshop, concerning the Erie Canal, to grade school teachers from across the country.

The week-long workshop, titled “Clinton’s Ditch: The Erie Canal in Western New York,” begins today at the Sanborn campus.

It’s funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which awards grants to museums, colleges and universities to help teachers refine their approaches to instructing schoolkids about American history and culture.

The workshop has 40 K-through-12th grade instructors learning about the canal, its construction, economic, social and cultural impacts on the United States through lectures and daily field trips to Syracuse, Camillus, Pittsford, Rochester, Buffalo and Lockport. According to the workshop schedule, NEH “summer scholars” will spend two half-days, Monday afternoon and Wednesday evening, in the Lock City, taking in tours of the Erie Canal Discovery Center, Locks 34 and 35 and a canal cruise.

The workshop will be repeated the week of Aug. 4 for another 40 teachers.

NCCC is the only community college in the nation that received a Landmarks grant this year, according to Megan Stadler, director of the school’s grants office. The grant is worth upwards of $100,000, as NEH is paying stipends of $1,200 per teacher to cover classroom and field trip costs, food and lodging. About half of the scholars are staying in campus housing.

“It’s really cool that we’re able to do this. Anytime the college can be on a national stage, that’s a good thing,” Stadler said.

The Clinton’s Ditch workshop is designed to show scholars how the Erie Canal propelled advancements in transportation, communication and engineering that, altogether, transformed the United States from a set of distinct regions to a unified, industrial nation.

Guest lecturers including Tamara Thornton, professor of history at the University of Buffalo, will suggest that the Erie Canal’s linking of east and west sparked the first industrial revolution in the 1830s and, in the process, discouraged the spread of slavery to newer states in the union. In a separate lecture she’ll suggest how the “artificial river” propelled capitalist culture in 19th century America.

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