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Student Travel Ideas: Celebrated American Writers from Philadelphia

by Howard Clemens

For student travel groups headed to Philadelphia, an historic tour is not complete without visiting the historic homes of famous American writers who lived there and penned their work there. A trip to a writer’s home provides a window into his domestic life, and the homes are well-preserved or restored. Teachers interested in creating a blended learning experience can have their students can read the works of these Celebrated authors as preparation for the trip.

Edgar Allen Poe, Ben Franklin and James Michener all lived in Philadelphia at some point in their writing careers. Poe was originally from Richmond, Virginia. He relocated his wife and mother to Philadelphia to assume editorial positions at literary magazines. Ben Franklin grew up in Boston. He took ship to Philadelphia to escape the tutelage of his father. Franklin would found his own printing press and purchase a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. He wrote many articles for this publication under various pseudonyms. He is well known for The Autobiography of Ben Franklin, which is his mythologized version of his trip to Philadelphia as a young man. Franklin is also known for Poor Richard’s Almanack, where his memorable phrases about life were recorded. James Michener is a celebrated American writer who penned non-fiction, historical novels about the U.S. He is best known for Centennial, Chesapeake and Alaska.

The Poe House, Philadelphia PA
Student tours of Philadelphia should include a look at the Poe House, at 7th and Spring Garden Streets. The only weekday this National Historic Site is open is Friday, so plan itineraries accordingly. Take advantage of a Ranger led tour of Poe’s home. Choose from “Poe’s Life, Literature and Legacy” or “Poe in Philadelphia.” The six years Poe spent living in Philadelphia were some of his most productive. He wrote the short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher” in Philadelphia and was employed as an editor and a critic. Poe’s influence reached European writers. His literary achievements include writing the first detective story and pioneering science fiction, by looking towards the future based on new technologies. Student trips can explore Poe’s reading room and the parlor, where his desk was located, as well as his bedroom and the basement. There is a replica of an air balloon students can launch – and more interactive exhibits.

Ben Franklin: The quintessential Philadelphian
Not only was Benjamin Franklin an inquisitive writer, a printer, a legislator and diplomat – but he was also a scientific genius. Franklin experimented with electricity and other new phenomenon that characterized the Early American era in which he lived. In high school history class, students are taught Ben Franklin was one of the founding signors of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Yet there is so much more beneath the surface of this fascinating figure. Franklin ran away from an overbearing father in Boston, and elevated himself to a prominent life in Philadelphia. He escalated his visibility using a printing press and a pen that rivals Mark Twain’s sarcasm. Franklin wrote under numerous pseudonyms in his day. The Benjamin Franklin Museum located in Franklin Court, with entrances on 3rd and 4th Street. A visit here is the best way a student travel group can become acquainted with his life and work as a statesman, printer and scientist. Though Franklin’s old residence is no longer standing, an outline of the old building remains. This is also known as the ‘ghost house’ in Franklin court.

James Michener: The Cultured Philadelphian
Born in New York City, Michener’s family moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania when he was a child. He left at the age of 20 and hitchhiked cross country. Michener returned to study at Swarthmore College, where he graduated with highest honors. Michener is known for his historical fiction about the United States, tracing the land’s beginnings as far back as scientific evidence and the imagination can conceive. Some of his best known works include: Chesapeake, Alaska and Centennial. Michener’s writing career was etched in stone when he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, Tales of the South Pacific (1947). This was later turned into a wildly popular Broadway Musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein and abbreviated to South Pacific. Student tours will want to see the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Michener funded the museum for his beloved Doylestown, where he maintained a foothold and a residence.

Student trips to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania offer many opportunities for English, History and Social Studies students. Places such as the Edgar Allen Poe house (and basement), the ghost of Benjamin Franklin’s home (and Museum) and the James A. Michener Art Museum are only a sampling of many famous writers and thinkers who lived and worked in the Philadelphia area. Students may continue to engage in studies of these notable figures that changed the American Cultural landscape forever.

For more information on scheduling a student tour of Philadelphia that includes a visit to some or all of these sites, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Philadelphia Art Tours Designed for Student Travel Groups

Philadelphia Art Tour Designed for Student Travel Groups

Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, is also place where art flourishes. There are so many different choices for students of art when exploring this particular city. I have designed this selective tour of art venues in Philadelphia for students traveling for educational purposes.  These five art institutions are important museums in Philadelphia that represent the diverse collection of art and artifacts available in the city.  There are numerous private galleries and many other museums to visit in the Philadelphia area.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Located at the center of Ben Franklin Parkway, with a grand stepped entrance where Rocky ran to the top triumphantly, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the premiere place to view art in the city. The museum has over 200 galleries with furniture, sculpture, photography, funerary objects and more. The collection ranges from the art of antiquity to contemporary art.  Many of the permanent exhibitions represent artists from different eras. Trip leaders may want to view the website for up-to-date information on current, rotating exhibitions on view during their visit.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts is one of the most prestigious places to study art in the U.S.  The focus is entirely on fine art, with an emphasis on painting, sculpting, and works on paper. The PAFA faculty is distinguished, working artists who exhibit regularly. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Museum has a substantial permanent collection and also displays rotating exhibitions of American artists.  In May, the graduating class exhibits a senior show at the Museum and it is always well attended.  Students interested in pursuing a career in art will find their visit to the PAFA enlightening.

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

Part of the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute of Contemporary Art is a unique space where living artists exhibit their work. There is no permanent collection at the ICA, so the exhibitions are continually rotating.  Here the student artist may encounter installation art, video art, traditional arts such as painting and sculpture and much more. The idea for the ICA originated with Holmes Perkins, an architecture professor who felt his students should be exposed to contemporary art. The ICA is a strikingly angled building with a unique design. Guided tours are available for student groups, with advance planning.

The African-American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP)

The African-American Museum in Philadelphia is a relatively new museum, begun in 1976. The Museum has four galleries and an auditorium. AAMP is located on Arch Street, close to the Reading Terminal Market and near City Hall.  Rotating exhibits at the AAMP touch upon African-American experiences and contributions to: home life, Civil Rights, arts and culture, entertainment, sports, medicine, architecture, politics, religion, law and technology.  Exhibits cover the African-American experience from pre-colonial times through the present day. Interactive exhibits, educational programs designed for greater understanding of African-American cultural forms of expression, and living history presentations are some of the ways students are encouraged to engage with African-American art.

Rodin Museum

Just across the Parkway from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of Philadelphia’s treasures — the Rodin Museum — beckons students to explore it.  The gate to the Rodin Museum was designed by the master himself, Auguste Rodin. A statue of “The Thinker,” Rodin’s most famous work, sits near the entrance. Jules E. Mastbaum was a wealthy movie theater magnate who became interested in Rodin’s work after a visit to Paris when he began to collect over 100 works. The Museum collection includes bronzes, plasters, terra cotta, ground glass, drawings and more.  Mastbaum made a gift of the Rodin Museum to the City of Philadelphia, and it was opened after his death, in November 1929.  The interior of the Rodin Museum is being renovated and will be closed until late spring of 2012. Student groups are still encouraged to visit the gates, gardens, and grounds, where larger scale pieces Rodin created can be viewed.

For student groups involved in the study and practice of art, Philadelphia has many high caliber museums to tour.

Group leaders may also want to include historical destinations such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell to give students a broader perspective of the city.  For more information about scheduling an art tour, Request a Quote.