She’s had to wait for it, but the Hamilton Education Program is coming to Stephanie Eau Claire’s classroom.
Eau Claire — a sixth grade reading teacher at Lincoln Academy in Pleasant Grove — will join 75 other schools nationwide in piloting the Hamilton Education Program Online, an expansion of the touring Hamilton Education Program. Students in the program have access to primary source materials as they create original pieces of performance art based on American history.
“It is a really cool merge of old, historic primary source information, but you get to do this modern, cutting-edge, cool way of expressing it,” Eau Claire said.
The touring Hamilton Education Program launched in 2016 with the goal of reaching 250,000 students through 2020. It has previously only been available to Title I high schools in areas where the touring production of “Hamilton” performed.
The program is being expanded through the introduction of the Hamilton Education Program Online, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, “Hamilton” and the family of Lin-Manuel Miranda announced last month. The free, digital program is also being expanded to reach the sixth through 12th grades in public, private and charter schools.
“I think from the very beginning, everyone involved in the program wanted to reach as many students as possible,” said Sasha Rolon Pereira, the associate director of education at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the director of the Hamilton Education Program, which is also referred to as EduHam.
The program’s original form wasn’t serving all the students it wanted to. Rolon Pereira said the program received a lot of interest from middle schools, elementary school and after-school clubs. It was hard to tell the schools they weren’t eligible, but the program held its breath for when it could expand.
When it came time to pick schools for the pilot, the program drew from that list. After the pilot ends and the online program launches in the fall of 2020, Rolon Pereira said any school will be able to go to the website. Its new goal is to reach at least a million students through the online program.
“‘Hamilton’ was such a phenomenon,” Rolon Pereira said. “It is so popular and has become part of everyone’s consciousness that it allows students to be part of something that is historic right now in American history and theatre, and allows them to get involved civically and artistically in a project.”
The website includes educational material on figures from America’s founding era, information on events and supporting documents. It will also include clips from “Hamilton” and interviews with its actors in order to bring the show into the classroom.
Students at Provo High School and Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo participated in the original Hamilton Education Program when the show was in Utah last year. The high school students were able to see the touring “Hamilton” show in Salt Lake City for $10 a student.
Students participating in the online program will also have a chance to see the show by entering their creative pieces in a national competition and lottery. Winners will be selected once a year and will be invited to New York City for an all-expense paid, full-day theatre experience that will include watching “Hamilton” on Broadway.
“From everything that has come out of HAMILTON, I am most proud of EduHam and of the students who have created their own incredible work from primary sources,” Miranda, the creator of ‘Hamilton,’ said in a press release. “I’m thrilled by the storytelling that comes out of the EduHam curriculum and the hunger it awakens in students who are empowered to dig deeper and find inspiration from our collective history.”
Lincoln Academy is the only Utah school to participate in the pilot.
Eau Claire found the program after seeing it on the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s website last year. She’d previously used the institute’s materials, and was thrilled to learn she’d been chosen.
“I didn’t realize how few pilot schools got in,” Eau Claire said.
She used “Hamilton” clips in her classroom last year. About half of her students knew where it was from, and 10% were what Eau Claire describes as “rabid fans.”
She’ll be using the online materials during the first part of the school year so her students can submit their competition materials by the December deadline.
Using the material will be a way to teach her students about primary sources and American history.
“Not very many seek out primary sources on their own in their day-to-day lives, so as teachers we have to purposely make them read old things, and the language has changed so much that it is hard to get them interested,” she said.
Eau Claire ended up researching the historical facts behind the show both before and after watching it in London. She hopes they get as interested in history through the show as she did and said the curriculum will help her students understand that America’s Founding Fathers were people, not just a collection of facts.
Interested schools can learn more at http://gilderlehrman.org/hamilton.