Sunday, January 13, 2013

Philadelphia:: Mini Historical Tour

I have made it a personal goal for 2013 to get out more. What that means specifically is open for interpretation, but I live near so many cute towns/cities and am only a 1/2 hour from Philadelphia, and I rarely visit. I also got a smart phone in November and have enjoyed taking snippets of life and capturing them with Instagram. It's forced me to be more creative compositionally, and I've begun to follow complete strangers whose work inspires me. So the goal is quite simple: at least once a month, I want to spend at least a few hours out in a town/city that is near me. So far the list includes: New Hope, Peddlers Village, Newtown, Philadelphia, Manayunk (all in PA), and Princeton, Lambertville (both in NJ). I am hoping for my list to expand, but I figure that's a good place to start.

This past weekend, I took a trip into Philly with the family I live with. The weather was supposed to be warmer than usual for a January day, so we drove down, found great parking, and walked around the Historic District of Philly for a few hours. The kids have been learning about Betsy Ross and Benjamin Franklin, and so they were excited to see the sites. Our first stop was to see the Liberty Bell; I hadn't been to see the bell since my 5th grade field trip to Philly. Of course, when you're younger, everything seems larger than life, so when I saw the bell this time, it looked so small to me. But there's nothing like sticking 2 cute kids in front of it. They were a bit shy at first, but the posted guard told them they could get a 'prize' if they had their picture taken. Afterward, he gave them each a souvenir card with history of the bell on it.

Then we walked past the Constitution Center, Independence Hall, and the US Mint, and they posed for some pictures along the way.

We also passed the grave of Benjamin Franklin - contained within the Christ Church Burial Ground. We then made our way to see the Betsy Ross House. The house tour was quite informative; it was great to learn about her flag making from a reenactor. She was great with the kids, and showed them different materials Betsy would have used to fill pillowcases. She also showed them how to quickly make a 5-point star, and gave them a star to remember their visit.

We had a super fun visit, and the kids got really excited about each stop we made. With the exception of the Betsy Ross House, most places are free. Tickets are required at some points, but since it was a January day, not many people were there, and we walked right into the Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross House. For more info. on what to see, check out this site. There are plenty of informational sites, but this one gives an overview and links to other pages.
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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Million Dollar Quartet:: Forrest Theater - Phila, PA

Upon completing my master's, I received a special gift from my faculty advisor and friend. She gave me two tickets to see Million Dollar Quartet at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia. I looked up the show and realized it was a musical about the one day that four icons came together for a day in the studio: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.

This is the description on the site referenced above:

"MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET is the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time.
On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET brings that legendary night to life, featuring a score of rock hits including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever," "That's All Right," "Sixteen Tons," "Great Balls of Fire," "Walk the Line," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Who Do You Love?," "Matchbox," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Hound Dog" and more.
This thrilling musical brings you inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock 'n' roll band for one unforgettable night. Don't miss your chance to be a fly on the wall of fame... at MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET!"

(obtained from:

The real artists
[image from Google image search]

MDQ actors/musicians (l to r: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash)
[image from Google image search]

The show was SO well done. The voices that the actors had were spot on. The energy that the character playing Jerry Lee Lewis had was infectious. The guy playing Johnny Cash had a lower register that mimicked the real Johnny Cash. The people in their seats were singing along, clapping, and in the end gave a hearty standing ovation, which caused an encore to ensue.

I have tried to share with friends the high energy throughout the show, but came short. So I tried to find a video online with a sample of the music...and was successful. If you're interested, check out this clip from an interview the cast members had on Hollywood Access Live.

I took my mom along with me. We both enjoyed a fabulous evening in the city. Here are just a few pictures I posted to Instagram throughout the evening:

Sansom St. (along Jeweler's Row)

Outside the theater

Interior of the Forrest Theater; it was stunning!
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Friday, January 4, 2013

Holocaust Education

I met a personal goal as 2012 ended -- I finished my master's degree through Cairn University. I had begun working on in in 2006 (don't judge!). I finished all the coursework in 2009, and only had my thesis to write (at Cairn, it's called an IDP - Instructional Design Project). But life was busy, and in 2010, I resigned from my job to attend photography school. I had high hopes of writing while in school; I soon realized that was a crazy goal! So the IDP kept getting pushed off, and with it went my desire to research for and subsequently write this massive paper.

BUT...I had many people pushing me along to finish it, and in May 2012, when I began working back at the university, I made it a goal to 'get it done'. So throughout the fall semester, I was on a personal quest to finish it. My topic was Holocaust Education, specifically the use of multimedia resources, and it was targeted toward teachers and helping them implement unique ways of teaching the Holocaust to their students.

I first became interested in studying the Holocaust in 8th grade, when my Language Arts teacher did a unit on stereotyping. It was followed by an introduction to the Holocaust, specifically to The Diary of Anne Frank, which is commonly taught during 7th or 8th grade. I don't know specifically what it was about the unit, but I remember being extremely interested in the topic. In the summer of 1998, I had the opportunity to travel with that teacher on a school trip to Russia. It was there that we met Miep Gies, who played a crucial role in hiding Anne Frank's family. Miep was also the one credited with finding Anne's diary, and later presented it to Otto Frank (Anne's father), when he found out about his daughter's passing. Miep later wrote a book about her experience, entitled Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family. Miep passed away in 2010, living to the age of 100. She experienced much and saw some of the major events in the history of our world.

A few years later, I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. for the first time. It was incredibly sobering. I went back this past September and the moment I walked into the permanent exhibition, I was greeted by a large picture and a quote on the wall. I do not remember the exact quote, or even which picture was there, but I do remember the instant tears that welled up in my eyes. To think about the devastation of the lives of so many people brings me much sadness. I walked through the museum with a renewed passion for the topic.

While enrolled as an undergraduate student, I wrote lessons on the Holocaust, and was even able to teach a mini unit on the Holocaust in my student teaching experience. One of the most fascinating resources out there is the teaching trunk. Many Holocaust museums offer it as a tool for teachers, and free of charge. Teachers can - essentially - reserve a trunk and have it shipped to their school for a specified time. The trunk is customized for a certain grade level, but most trunks contain books (enough for an entire class), maps, pictures, videos, timelines, and survivors' biographies. I reserved a trunk for my unit while student teaching, and the kids loved it (I got the trunk from the FL Holocaust Museum; see their site for the details of what's typically included in a trunk).

At one time, I thought about going to school to get my Master's in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. I seriously looked at a program at a college in NJ. In not going through with that, I knew long ago that I wanted to write my thesis on this topic. It morphed into the specific topic as I thought about what I wanted to say and the part of its study that I enjoyed the most.

My thesis outlined pairing literature WITH multimedia resources, including videos, pictures, survivor stories, the teaching trunk, and others. I developed a 5-lesson unit that teachers could use to teach introductory material on the Holocaust. It was a long process, and I spent hours preparing the content. It was well worth it in the end. I am glad to have finished, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time on a subject that has become an interest of mine.

I am thankful for some of the leading Holocaust researchers - specifically Samuel Totten - who wrote me on numerous occasions as I had questions about teaching resources. I hope that schools continue to mandate Holocaust education. With many of the remaining survivors passing away, there need to be people committed to telling the stories and preserving the history.

I hope I can continue to explore the topic, and continue to read things that are written related to the topic. There are some dedicated people out there, writing books, resources, and teaching others about the events surrounding this period of our history. May those who have the opportunity to teach it be blessed for their dedication.

I included the following in one of the appendices of my paper:

Never forget...

I cannot forget. I will always remember.

I will remember that Auschwitz is not one but many places. I will remember
that Auschwitz happened. I will remember that there is no escape. And I ask
one thing of you– that you remember Auschwitz clearly.


Auschwitz is not a camp or a museum or a memorial or a cemetery.
Auschwitz is an open grave that extends for miles beyond its walls and
fences and its official boundaries. And the remains of the dead are

Millions of men, women, and children were brutally murdered and lie dead
at Auschwitz. You cannot approach or enter without stepping over and upon
their bodies.

The air that you breathe there is their last. What grows there is sustained by
them. The Sola and the Vistula flow among them and over them and carry
them along. The rain there anoints them. The sun there cannot raise them
form their cold or take them out of darkness.

The nature of the beast…

Auschwitz changes things.

From time to time, my wife and daughter go for a walk around the block or
for a drive to the store. I know they’ll be back. But, watching my daughter
wave bye-bye as they disappear around the corner of the house or up the
street, I sometimes grieve for the murdered children of the Holocaust. They,
too, had turned and waved, secure in that simple gesture and certain of their

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