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Contact: Mary Williamson, Development Director, 978/740-0444, Ext.14
August 14, 2009 (Salem, MA) . . . Essex Heritage (The Essex National Heritage Commission) and the National Park Service (NPS) Salem Maritime National Historic Site, in their tradition of celebrating our region’s unique cultural heritage, is pleased to invite the community to an open house to showcase the successful conclusion of its pilot camp program, funded by the National Park Foundation America’s Best Idea grant program. The reception will be held at the NPS Salem Regional Visitor Center, One Liberty Street on Thursday, August 27th, from 1-3pm. Student campers will present photographs, memory books and other exhibits that recount their eight week hands-on camp experience of maritime and related American heritage activities. The festivities will also include a preview of the upcoming Ken Burns PBS documentary, “The National Parks, America’s Best Idea.”
The focus of the America’s Best Idea grants, awarded to only thirty five National Parks throughout the country, was to extend the reach of the important lessons offered in Ken Burns’ documentary and to reach traditionally underserved groups and inspire their future stewardship of our National Parks.
The grant sponsored 120 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem to participate in a variety of maritime related activities from late June through mid August and to learn about the unique and diverse cultural heritage of the North Shore. Through a series of field-trip visits and hands-on experiences, the children discovered untold stories related to Salem Maritime National Historic Site and other area national park sites and historic attractions in the region. “We looked to this pilot program to connect with people who have had little or no experience in our national parks, as well as to find ways to deepen existing relationships,” said Patria S. Trap, Superintendent of the Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Sites.
Twenty 8 to 12 year olds from the Boys & Girls Club had the opportunity to participate in one of the Schooner Fame’s summer camps on July 20-24. ENHA Education Counselor, Bryan Silveira enjoyed leading the camp participants in the program activities. “It was very interesting to observe how the campers enjoyed the variety of experiences available in the program. We tried to show the kids that ordinary, everyday people helped to build this country, and they were from all walks of life, just like their families.”
Throughout the summer an additional 100 Boys & Girls Club members enjoyed field trips to Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site and other heritage sites throughout Essex County, and even a trip to visit Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Minuteman National Historical Park in Lexington and Concord.
Through direct hands-on educational experiences, the children discovered the impact that African Americans and other disenfranchised groups of “regular folk” had on American history-especially in 18th and 19th century New England. “The hope is that the children who participated in the program will gain a connection with the parks in a personal way as they explore how stories from the past can relate to their own lives. We want them to feel a sense of familiarity and comfort in their national parks,” said Beth Beringer, ENHA Education Curriculum Developer. And, ultimately, the project scope will include the development of pilot programs that will strengthen the National Park Service’s ability to reach underserved audiences.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund and the Popplestone Foundation.For additional information, please visit: EssexHeritage.org and www.nps.gov/sama