Eighty Coronado High School students experienced college and the hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” all in one day.
The 11th grade American History students of teachers Justin Slover, Wendy Paez, Ed Hazelett and Valentino Popoca attended Arizona State University on Feb. 23 to see a matinee performance of “Hamilton,” wearing matching Hamilton-themed Coronado Dons shirts.
After students arrived at ASU’s Gammage Theater, they participated in programs that included student presentations, guest speakers and a question-and-answer session with diverse cast members.
They also ate lunch in the ASU dining hall, “literally giving them a taste of college,” explained Scottsdale Unified School District Communications Specialist Nancy Norman.
Coronado High School was chosen by New York City-based Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History to participate in the “Hamilton” education program — EduHam — that has students learn from the musical by having them write original Hamilton-inspired raps, poems, plays and songs with a chance to perform onstage before the show as it tours during the 2017-18 school year.
Ron Chernow, author of “Alexander Hamilton,” the book the musical is based on, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical’s creator, reportedly pitched an educational component of the Hamilton story to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to history education.
Gilder Lehrman Institute educators and historians designed a high school curriculum around the music and premise of the play that was approved by the “Hamilton” creators.
The lesson plan combined the historical story of Mr. Chernow’s book along with original documents from the institutes’s archives including Mr. Hamilton’s love letters.
Classes selected from across the country submerge themselves in studying the life of Alexander Hamilton before seeing the award-winning musical chronicling his life. The story of an immigrant who overcame poverty, becoming a founding father and the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, is told mainly through the musical genres of Hip-hop, Jazz, Blues, Rap, Rhythm and Blues.
A love story, messages about democracy and civic engagement are intertwined from growing up in the West Indies to becoming George Washington’s “right hand man,” fighting in the American Revolution, helping with the Constitution, forming early economic policies, and, then his deathly duel with Aaron Burr.
While all schools can apply to participate in the curriculum, the $10 tickets to see the show are only available to Title I schools with most of its students from low-income families. EduHam will reach 250,000 Title I students during the next five years, according to a published report.
Mr. Slover and Ms. Paez completed an application at gilderlehrman.org to be accepted in the program.
“They (The Gilder Lehrman Institute) have a partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and the Hamilton Musical to bring EduHam to youth around the country,” said Ms. Paez in a Feb. 28 emailed response to questions. “We were very fortunate to be chosen for this experience.”
She said as a requirement for attending the “Hamilton” musical, she and participating teachers’ American History classes engaged in a week-long Hamilton workshop where students analyzed primary source documents of the American Revolution, chose a person or event from “the Founding Era,” and created their own poem, song, theatrical scene or monologue to present to their peers.
Students “enthusiastically embraced” the projects, Mr. Slover said in a prepared statement provided by the SUSD communications specialist. He added that they were excited to see the show, proud of their work created in advance and considered it a “celebration of this once-in-a-lifetime ‘Broadway Meets School’ opportunity.”
Ms. Paez said students enjoyed listening to what the performers who played George Washington, Aaron Burr, King George III, in addition to the costume designer, had to say to them.
“My students wrote a journal about their experiences at the Hamilton Musical today (Feb. 28) during class. For most of my students, this was their first musical or theatre performance. They overwhelmingly said that they were amazed by the musical and really connected with the story of Alexander Hamilton. The students felt very grateful to have this opportunity,” she stated.
Some students commented about how impressed they were by the Hamilton performance. Coronado High School student Humberto Rodriguez also noted that he couldn’t stop smiling during the performance.
“I was absolutely amazed by the performance. Not what I expected at all. I would definitely go again. It was amazing!” said student Elijah Judiscak.