NJCSS Commences Grant on Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution
by David DiCostanzo, Vineland High School (NJ)
Several Social Studies teachers from around the state began a research grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to examine the histories of ordinary people in New Jersey and how the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War impacted their lives. The grant, “Telling Our Story: Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution”, is an effort by the NJCSS to prepare educators in New Jersey for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution during the 2025-26 school year. The 250th anniversary celebrations will continue through 2031 and are part of the overall mission of the NJCSS to provide and make available meaningful lessons and activities to students, teachers, and the public. This is important work because it engages students and residents in various counties throughout New Jersey about the birth of representative government in America.
The purpose of this grant is for each research scholar to explore primary sources, such as pamphlets and letters, related to events that affected the lives and livelihoods of people during the American Revolution. The results of this research will be communicated to students in Grades 4-12 (and college) through activity-based lessons requiring role playing, simulation and/or debating decisions relating to the personal experiences of people living in New Jersey in the 1770s. Each research scholar is also responsible for submitting an article on their topic for publication, producing a 3-5-minute documentary, and including an annotated bibliography. The articles will be published on the NJCSS website and the documentaries will be made available via our Vimeo channel. Our team of research scholars include:
Bobby Ciarletta Ramapo College of New Jersey
Kevin Daly Parsippany Troy Hills High School
David DiCostanzo Vineland High School
Bob Fenster Hillsborough High School
Bill Smith Shore Regional High School
Karen Smith Immaculate Conception MS
Susan Soprano Passaic Middle School
Recently, these research scholars in coordination with Dr. Lucia McMahon, Professor and Chair of History at William Paterson University, Dr. Mark Percy, Professor of Social Studies Education at Rider University, and Mr. Hank Bitten, Executive Director of the NJCSS visited two historical sites as a way of beginning their research. On Friday, November 5, 2021, the group worked from the Dey Mansion in Wayne, New Jersey. Dey Mansion was the headquarters of General George Washington and the Continental Army during the fall and summer of 1780. The Dey Mansion promotes the examination of life during the colonial era and the events and people of the American Revolution. This historical site also offers a wide range of inquiry based educational programs for students in all grade levels. Under the direction of Dey Mansion Curator and Research Librarian Jessica Bush, the group spent a productive day touring the grounds, learning about the importance or material culture, and conducting independent and group research. Marc Lorenc from the New Jersey Historical Commission welcomed us.
On Saturday November 6, 2021, the grant participants headed south and spent the day at the Monmouth Historical Society Museum in Freehold, New Jersey. Founded in 1898, the Monmouth County Historical Association manages the museum. Their mission of the association is to collect, preserve, and interpret its extensive museum, research library, and archival collections that relate to Monmouth County’s history and culture and makes these resources available to the widest possible audience. Under the direction of Research Librarian and Archivist Dana Howell, the group read through and scanned over 200 primary source documents related to dozens of individuals that lived in Monmouth County during the American Revolution. Several of the educators were extremely impressed with the museum which included a recent exhibition honoring hometown musician Bruce Springsteen. The NJCSS would like to thank Jessica Bush and Dana Howell for a wonderful two days!
Going forward, the research scholars will be meeting at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, New Jersey on December 4, 2021. In Newark, they will carry on their research which will continue to be guided by Dr. McMahon, Dr. Pearcy, and Mr. Bitten. The research scholars will have two additional opportunities to meet in January to work on their projects. All of the grant participants will also conduct independent research by visiting 18th century historical sites in their own respective counties and by sharing their findings and presentations with other Social Studies teachers and people in their individual school districts. The finished products are scheduled to be completed in February and March of 2022.