The smash-hit musical “Hamilton” has ignited students’ interest in history, creating a ready-made opportunity for teachers.
The Broadway musical, which is now also playing in Chicago and San Francisco, tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the “$10 founding father without a father,” in rap and hip-hop songs. Teachers have tried to capitalize on their students’ interest by using the show as a teaching tool—in terms of learning about history, language arts, and diversity in pop culture. (“Hamilton” purposefully chose nonwhite actors and actresses to play the lead parts.)
Last month, 400 New York City public school teachers, half of whom were Teach for America corps members, saw the musical. They then received training on teaching in diverse classrooms. (This was a fundraiser for Teach for America’s New York chapter and was sponsored by Barclays. The training was hosted by the city’s department of education and The Fund for Public Schools, based in New York.)
The Education Week video team captured some of the training, which features teachers drawing parallels to the musical for their lessons. “Hamilton was an immigrant, right? When we learn about our forefathers, we don’t usually have that perspective,” a social studies teacher said. Another teacher said the musical’s use of actors and actresses of color provided a nice bridge to discussing race with students: “‘Was George Washington really black?’ No, but where were the black people? What were they doing? What were some of them saying? Where were the women?”
More on “Hamilton” in the Classroom:
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.