Free bus tours to the FDR Library?

June 6, 2011

Franklin Roosevelt voting in Hyde Park, New York

Franklin Roosevelt voting in Hyde Park, New York, November 2, 1937 - FDR LIbrary image

In the Dallas district, and across much of Texas, field trips are being cut out.  Budget restraints, you know.  Rick Perry’s math is atrocious, and the “surplus” he claimed we had in the budget turned out to be a $27 billion deficit.

So, I got quite excited to read this press release from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York:


For information call:
Clifford Laube at (845) 486-7745


New funding available for field trips to historic Hyde Park destinations

HYDE PARK – Field trips are back! The National Park Service and FDR Presidential Library and Museum are pleased to offer new transportation grants for 2011 field trips to five renowned Hyde Park destinations – FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Home of FDR National Historic Site, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Top Cottage and Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.

The new grants are managed by Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV), a nonprofit that helps educators and students discover and appreciate the natural, historical and cultural treasures of the Hudson Valley. A list of available programs and grant application form are available in the Grants section of THV’s website.

“These sites are brimming with world-class learning opportunities for local students,” said Sarah Olson, superintendant of the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites. “We recognize that many school districts have cut back or eliminated field trips due to budget constraints. These grants are designed to put great field trips back in reach.”

Educators are free to create their own curriculum, and the sites have a wide variety of prepared curricula, including:

  • Pretend You are the President, grades 4-6
  • Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World, grades 4-6
  • FDR’s Boyhood Farm, grades 1-3
  • Searching for Salamanders, grades 7-12
  • Podcasts interpreting the many trails that traverse the 5 sites

“To walk in the footsteps of history, to touch and hear nature – these are the experiences that make learning vivid and memorable,” said Lynn Bassanese, director of the FDR Presidential Library & Museum. “Field trips are becoming an endangered species, but the need for them is still great. Together these sites have provided decades of great experiences for educators and students. These new grants will help us continue the tradition.”

K-12 educators in public and private schools may apply for regular, summer or after-school programs. Trips should be related to core curriculum or programs and take place by December 31, 2011. Teachers in the same school or district may apply together.


Launched in 2003, Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV) helps educators and students discover and appreciate the natural, historical, and cultural treasures of the Hudson Valley. THV programs foster collaboration between schools and informal learning sites. Our growing collection of free K-12 lessons uses significant Valley sites to teach all subjects. For details, visit

THV is a program of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and HRV Greenway Conservancy, Inc.; National Park Service – Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites; Hudson River Estuary Program/NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation; and Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College.

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Alas, it turns out it’s not intended for Texas classrooms.  Drat.

I’ve taken large groups of 14-16 year-olds through those sites.  An halfway interested teenager can get eyes opened seeing how FDR grew up, in the place he grew up.  The library and museum offer spectacular displays on FDR’s presidency and the times.  It’s exactly the sort of experience a lot of my students have never had, but need.

I’ll have to see what we can do with museums and libraries a little bit closer — the George H. W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas, the Lyndon Johnson Library in Austin, and the  Bill Clinton Library in Little Rock.  Possibilities of touring close-by sites make me quiet about the odd situation at the George W. Bush Library and Center for Right-Wing Propaganda planned for Southern Methodist University.   There’s a great chance that the advantages of having the educational resources will outweigh the ignominy of the propaganda activities (though the Hoover Institute makes one appropriately wary).

Look for some reports back, soon.  While you wait, call the Texas Lege and tell them to appropriate enough money to educate the students in the American Way, will you?  The Lege is still meeting in Austin, in emergency, special session.

History for fun, not profit (other than a little drink)

October 14, 2008

E Clampus Vitus has tens of thousands of members across seven Western states, though nowhere are the groups eccentric ways more alive than in California. Above, Noble Grand Humbug Scott Neilsen, left, and Steve Slonecker at Eds Restaurant in Twain Harte.

Caption from the New York Times: E Clampus Vitus has tens of thousands of members across seven Western states, though nowhere are the group's eccentric ways more alive than in California. Above, Noble Grand Humbug Scott Neilsen, left, and Steve Slonecker at Ed's Restaurant in Twain Harte. Photo fro the New York Times, by Jim Wilson.

You don’t think history can be fun? Consider the group of Californians known as Clampers, who gather to celebrate history in a place called Twain Harte (ask any California historian, or American literature mavin, how the town got its name):

“It’s a common saying that no one has been able to tell if they are historians that like to drink or drinkers who like history,” said Dr. Robert J. Chandler, a senior historian at Wells Fargo Bank and a proud member of the group’s San Francisco chapter. “And no one knows because no one has been in any condition to record the minutes.”

Whether a historical drinking society or a drinking historical society, the Clampers claim tens of thousands of members in 40 chapters across seven Western states, though nowhere are the group’s strange ways more alive than in California, where members are said to have included Ronald Reagan; John Huston, the film director; and Herb Caen, the famous San Franciscan master of the three-dot journal. Some Clamper membership claims, of course, can be suspect. It is true, however, that many noted historians have been members, as is the current director of the State Office of Historic Preservation.

I already like the bunch:  The Order of E Clampus Vitus.

Read about them in the New York Times. The Times carries a series of stories based on the WPA-produced state guide books (Works Progress Administration).  Each one of these articles would be a good topic of focus for a lesson plan.  Other articles in the series so far include:

See also the introduction to the series, and go back in time to read the .pdf of the story announcing the creation of the WPA, intended to created 3.5 million jobs in the Great Depression.

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