APUSH students tour the tenements

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During the first two weeks of March, Townsend Harris High School juniors attended trips to the Manhattan Tenement Museum with their AP US History classes. History teachers Blayne Gelbman and Frank McCaughey organized these trips in correlation with the current topic being taught in their classes: the Progressive Era. At the museum, students viewed the restored and displayed lives of 19th and 20th century immigrants through two particular immigrant families from this time period: the Levine’s and Rogarchevsky’s. 

After attending the trip, students were to work on a group project where they created a physical artifact that represented the lives of these immigrants, along with contextualization and an exhibit card, as if this was a part of a museum display. 

Mr. Gelbman explained, “Ultimately what we are trying to do is work with the AP curriculum…. and we are trying to start ‘expeditionary learning,’ which is a framework where you create a learning environment that connects the experience to the content.” 

Mr. Gelbman continued that because THHS is a school in New York City, “we have a great lab right outside, there is so much history here… [and] when you actually go [see it], you can connect it to yourself as a lot of students in THHS are immigrants or children of immigrants, so they can relate and understand these conditions.”

Junior Valys Maloney said that this trip helped her “get a better perspective of the people who actually live in the tenements… We can read about it in textbooks, but it’s not the same as seeing it in person; it helped me visualize and complete the class project.”  Junior Alvin Zhou added, “When you look at images and documents, you don’t get the full story, but when you are standing in the actual space, it all gets very real.”

Mr. Gelbman stated that the availability and the size of the museum were the reasons why the trip happened on three different days: March 3, March 6, and March 13. “The museum itself is very small and can only take thirty people at a time. These were dates that they had available.” 

Many juniors had varying opinions on this, as the first of these three trips happened the day before the March SAT, and two days before the National Latin/Greek Exams. Alvin stated that although he attended the last trip day, “It was better to go after the SAT because we weren’t as stressed and it was very chill and relaxed…. It was on a Friday, so it was a nice ending to a stressful week.” However, Valys “didn’t mind [going before the SAT] because I wouldn’t have rather done schoolwork or been in school…. It was a good break.” Mr. Glebman thought the same way and added, “I personally think that the day before the SAT was the best day to go because it was a good distraction for the class. It helped the students relax.”

The last concern about the trip arose before the last of the three trips occurred, as many students began to worry about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. However, this situation was quickly under control as Mr. McCaughey reached out to each student’s parents to confirm that they were aware of the safety risk and allowed students to opt-out. The history teachers took an additional precautionary measure by distributing wipes to students on the bus.