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‘Hamilton’ serves as guide for student research, performances

Students in the College in the School (CIS) government classes at Burnsville High School received some exciting news during the first week of school.

Their school was selected for a special class project related to the popular historical musical “Hamilton.”

Their teachers, Colleen Coleman and Kathryn Wendling, received a grant from the Gilder Lehrman Institute that will subsidize the cost of tickets to the performance on Sept. 27 when it’s in Minneapolis.

Before they attend, students were required to follow a process similar to what Lin-Manuel Miranda did when he created the musical. He incorporated primary sources – like letters, journals, speeches and news articles – into the songs he composed for the show.

BHS students researched primary sources and then came up with their own two-minute performances featuring historical characters like George and Martha Washington, Dolly Madison, Paul Revere and events like the Boston Massacre and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. They used songs, skits, videos and poems to tell their stories. [View videos of two projects, below.]

“Lin-Manuel Miranda gave the students advice, ‘find the drama in the stories’,” said Coleman. “Students were able to take people and events of the Founding Era and tell stories in a new way by using primary sources to find the voices of the past. And what we found is those voices are more relevant than ever.”

As they developed their projects, students were coached by Ryan Shipley (above, at right) from Hennepin Theatre Trust who provided feedback.Their projects might be selected to be shown before the “Hamilton” performances.

As part of “Hamilton” learning, the Gilder Lehrman Institute created student and teacher guides for classroom use and a website featuring primary sources and videos to facilitate student research.

“This innovative program integrating history and performing arts allows teachers to bring American history to the classroom in a new way and helps students find their own connections to the Founding Era,” according to the organization’s website.

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 11:02