Education Programs

Engage students with the scope of American history through the experiences of Western Pennsylvanians over the past 250 years.

Students will explore topics through investigative questioning and hands-on discovery. Discussions of daily life and major events like the British, French & Indian War, the Lewis & Clark Expedition, the Underground Railroad, and the World Wars connect students to the everyday and extraordinary lives of local people throughout American history.

Heinz History Center
Heinz History Center
Fort Pitt Museum
Fort Pitt Museum
Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village
Meadowcroft

Prehistoric Pennsylvania

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

Explore the discovery and excavation of Meadowcroft Rockshelter, a National Historic Landmark, in this newly designed field trip experience. Interactive stations provide students with hands-on and inquiry-based opportunities for uncovering the secrets of the “First Peoples” and the multidisciplinary approach of the experts who study the archaeological site. Investigate how the geography and ecology of the Cross Creek watershed impacted the ability of prehistoric people to camp here, explore the geologic forces that created the Rockshelter and its stratigraphy, examine the archaeological site, and analyze educational artifacts to understand how archaeologists interpret a cultural assemblage.

Grade Levels: All
Program Length: 80 minutes
Availability: April – November

Request Program

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

Travel 400 years into the past to explore a re-created Eastern Woodland Indian Village at Meadowcroft.  The palisaded settlement includes wigwams, a representative native garden plot, hunting camp, and other educational archaeological features common to Monongahela Indian sites.  This program emphasizes the forest-centered lifestyle of pre-contact American Indians in the Upper Ohio Valley.  Students have an opportunity to try using an atlatl, a pre-historic spear thrower, and learn about the complex relationship between nature and man.

Grade Levels: All
Program Length: 80 minutes
Availability: April – November

Request Program

Keystone of the Frontier

Fort Pitt Museum

Learn how Pittsburgh began by exploring the conflict over the forks of the Ohio River between the British, French, and Indians during the 18th century. Students will explore the timeline of the French & Indian War and participate in hands-on activities related to life at Fort Pitt, which may include a cannon, musket, or marching drill. Students will also learn about the fur trade that made Fort Pitt, and the Point, a major trading post between Europeans and Indians in a recreated fur trading cabin.

Grade Levels: All
Program Length: 1 – 2 hours

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Explore how revolutionary steamboat development in the 1820s reflected Pittsburgh’s role as the Gateway to the West. This interactive program includes a gallery tour and examination of maps and primary sources that focus on transportation, trade, and settlement during America’s westward expansion.

Grade Levels: 2nd – 6th

Request Program

The Underground Railroad and the Civil War

Heinz History Center

Pittsburgh was an important transportation hub and a crucial source of armaments for the Union. Discover the many roles that Pittsburghers embraced during the Civil War by exploring war time correspondence, investigating the replica Rodman cannon and the Allegheny Arsenal explosion, and touring the From Slavery to Freedom exhibition to examine stories of African Americans in the Civil War.

Grade Levels: 3rd – 6th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Students will become historians as they conduct research to support The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s Living Legacy Tree Planting Project. This project has been working towards planting one tree for each of the 620,000 men who died fighting in the Civil War and geotaging individual trees with information that tells the story of one of these men. In this skills-based program, students will use materials held in the History Center’s Detre Library and Archives to conduct authentic research on men from Western Pennsylvania who fought and died during the Civil War, and will contribute their findings to the Living Legacy project.

Grade Levels: 8th – 12th
Program Length: 3 hours
Maximum Students: 30 per session

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Learn about freedom seekers who made use of the Underground Railroad in Western Pennsylvania and local abolitionists who fought for equality for all. The program features artifacts for handling, archival materials relating to slavery and abolition, and interactive gallery activities. Trace one freedom seeker’s journey to safety, learn the stories of local people who helped with the Underground Railroad, and tour the From Slavery to Freedom exhibition.

Grade Levels: 3rd – 8th

Request Program

Industrialization and Immigration

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

Visit Meadowcroft’s 19th century village to learn about how early industrialization affected rural life in the upper Ohio Valley. Students will visit historic log houses and learn what life was like before modern conveniences. The topics include textile manufacture, pre-electric lighting, and historical games. In addition to visiting the log homes, students will experience a simulated lesson in a one-room schoolhouse and get to witness a blacksmith at work in his forge.

Grade Levels: K – 8th
Program Length: 3 hours with .5 hour for lunch
Availability: April – November

Request Program

Heinz History Center

People moving to this region in search of new opportunities has shaped life in Western Pennsylvania for centuries. Explore what motivated people to come to Pittsburgh during the early 20th century through hands-on gallery activities, including packing a trunk for a family’s migration from Italy, playing a traditional sport brought to Pittsburgh from another country, and examining historic maps.

Grade Levels: 2nd – 5th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Long before being known as the Steel City, Pittsburgh was America’s Glass City.  This workshop examines the beauty, science, utility, and technology of Western Pennsylvania glass over the past 200 years.  Explore Pittsburgh’s significant role in glass production through an in-depth experience in the Glass: Shattering Notions exhibition, analysis of primary sources relating to glass factory workers, and an optional visit to the Pittsburgh Glass Center for hands-on activities or a glass-making demonstration.

Grade Levels: 3rd – 8th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

With industrialists such as Carnegie and Frick calling Pittsburgh home and the fast pace of the area’s industrialization, it is no wonder that Western Pa. has been the site of many important strikes and labor negotiations, which impacted the nation. Explore the conflicts leading to labor disputes, the cooperation and compromises that were achieved, and the stories of some of the major figures in Western Pa.’s labor history through sources including the “Pittsburgh Survey,” archival papers and photographs relating to local companies and workers, and unique museum artifacts.

Grade Levels: 4th – 8th

Request Program

A New Century

Heinz History Center

In the early decades of the 20th century, multitudes of African Americans left the South looking to escape discrimination. Many settled in the industrialized cities of the North, including Pittsburgh, where they built strong communities and found jobs in the mills, mines, and factories that lined the city’s rivers. Students will explore the stories of families who traveled to Pittsburgh from the South through investigations of their journals and correspondence along with a tour of the From Slavery to Freedom exhibition to contextualize the Great Migration.

Grade Levels: 3rd – 8th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

The Heinz History Center has special initiatives for collecting artifacts, photographs, oral histories, and archival materials that document ethnic communities, including the Italian American Collection, African American Collection, and the Rauh Jewish Archives. The collections explore the pivotal role each of these communities play in shaping the region’s political, economic, religious, and cultural landscapes. Case study sessions will help students piece together the stories of these groups through activities in the galleries and work with archival resources.  Teachers may select to focus on one group or participate in a comparative studies session.

Grade Levels: 6th – 12th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Pittsburgh contributed much to the First World War, including steel, munitions, glass, technological innovations, and thousands of men who fought in the trenches. In this program, trace the story of one soldier’s experience of World War I through his correspondence from the trenches to the home front, learn how local innovations such as the gas mask changed the way the war was fought, and explore the impact of the war on Western Pennsylvania through analysis of photos.

Grade Levels: 4th – 9th

Request Program

The Great Depression and the Second World War

Heinz History Center

This exploration of Pittsburgh’s Strip District utilizes historic images, maps, and first-person accounts to bring to life Katherine Ayres’ “Macaroni Boy” novel. Compare and contrast settings from the book with historic evidence, including the site of the banana explosion, Cox’s army, Klavon’s drug store, aluminum and steel mills, and Herr’s Island. An interactive game brings the story full circle with a look at the Strip District today. The program can be enriched by a visit from author Katherine Ayres for an additional fee and based on availability.

Grade Levels: 2nd – 6th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Like most of the nation, citizens of Pittsburgh suffered from the effects of the Great Depression. The city saw shantytowns springing up in the Strip District and figures like Father Cox working to help local families who were becoming increasingly impoverished. Explore the story of Father Cox’s Army and their march to Washington through archival materials and museum artifacts, analyze historic images from the period, and hear oral history recordings from local people who lived through the Great Depression.

Grade Levels: 3rd – 8th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Examine the many ways that the Second World War transformed Pittsburgh, from the personal stories of the home front to the role and cost of wartime industrial production.

Grade Levels:  3rd – 8th 

This hands-on program features a gallery tour, an investigation of a soldier’s footlocker with period objects for handling, and an exploration of archival sources that reveal the experiences of a local military pilot during World War II.

Grade Levels: 9th – 12th

This interactive session features oral histories from local individuals involved in the war effort, a gallery tour with period objects for handling, and an investigation of one local family’s experience of the Holocaust.

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Archival documents will bring alive the stories of those fleeing the Holocaust and relocating to Western Pennsylvania. Students will explore the experiences of several families seeking to leave Nazi Germany and the agencies and people in Pittsburgh who were trying to help them. Powerful documents will be examined using a framework developed to complement the recent Act 70 Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Violations legislation.

Grade Levels: 8th – 12th
Program Length: 2 hours
Maximum: 50 students

Request Program

Making the Modern City

Heinz History Center

Students will have the opportunity to meet people who have seen history first hand, from the veteran experience of World War II to a Vietnam War protestor. These sessions include analysis of primary and secondary sources, student facilitated interviews, and group discussions. Educators can select from two themes: Military Veterans: Trials and Tribulations of War (from World War II to the Gulf War) or The 1960s: The Decade that Rocked America.

Grade Levels: 6th – 12th
Program Length: 2 hours
Maximum: 50 students

Request Program

Heinz History Center

The past is filled with key points at which different decisions might have changed the course of history. Using the format of a deliberative forum and thinking from the perspective of a citizen in post-World War II Pittsburgh, students will discuss three options for how the modern city should be shaped. Primary sources from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development will set the scene, and pre-visit preparation materials for the deliberative forum can be found online.

Grade Levels: 9th – 12th
Program Length: 2 hours

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Discover the stories of those who worked for change during the Civil Rights movement by exploring accounts from Freedom Summer, analyzing newspapers from the era, and touring the From Slavery to Freedom exhibition. The session culminates in a digital poster making activity as students reflect on the concerns and calls for action during the civil rights movement.

Grade Levels:
8th – 12th
Program Length: 2 hours

Request Program

Interdisciplinary Programs

Heinz History Center

Inspired by Pittsburgh

Students will discover how artists have been inspired by the city around them in this program, designed to integrate visual arts and social studies. Using artifacts, archival materials, and historic photographs, students will find inspiration in the city’s history and look at works of art from the History Center’s art collection to explore how artists have represented the city in their work. This program can also include an outdoor photography activity to capture students’ own artistic representations of their city.

Grade Levels: 1st – 8th
Maximum: 50 students

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Our Place in History: GIS and Primary Sources

In this skills-based program, students will use technology, primary sources, and historic city maps to explore continuity and change in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. Using digitized archival maps, modern mapping technology, historic city directories and census data, students will collect data about the past and create maps that reflect how the city has changed and developed.

Grade Levels: 6th – 9th
Maximum: 50 students

Request Program

Heinz History Center

A Better World: Improving the quality of our lives through innovation

Learn about the work of important Pittsburghers as they made change and positively impacted our world. Students will follow in the footsteps of Rachel Carson and become citizen scientists, experiment with food science like H.J. Heinz in pursuit of pure foods, and reflect on the impact of Fred Rogers on childhood media as they create their own response to his work.

Grade Levels: 4th – 8th

 

Systems Thinking: Exploring complex systems in history

This program focuses on the dynamics within systems that were as important to past engineers as they are to America’s future innovators. Students evaluate primary sources and the introduction of two innovations to the late 19th century train system, work with modular robotics kits to design and test new robotic systems, and sharpen their systems thinking skills through game design.

Grade Levels: 4th – 8th

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Gather a Story

The Special Collections Gallery and Visible Storage allow visitors to view many artifacts that would normally be held in storage. These objects range from cars to clothing and ethnic collections to historic toys. This game-style exploration will encourage students to form unique stories about these objects and the stories behind them by gathering a setting, characters, and plot elements inspired by the museum displays. This program can be adapted for a range of ability levels.

Grade Levels: 2nd – 5th
Maximum 50 students

 

Discover the Story: Museum Collections and Narrative

Using the Special Collections Gallery and Visible Storage, students will create a narrative based on the objects, images, and documents on display. After investigating the collections to find characters, a setting, and plot elements, students will refine their narratives and create a storyboard that can be adapted into a digital story, comic, or visual narrative back in the classroom. This program can be adapted for a range of ability levels.

Grade Levels: 6th – 8th
Maximum 50 students

Request Program

Special Exhibit Programs

Heinz History Center

Dec. 2016 – June 2017

This interactive exhibit will transport visitors back in time to see Pittsburgh and experience its stories through the History Center’s vast collection of photographs. Explore the region’s history from the advent of photography in the 1840s through the late 20th century. Discover how photographic technologies have changed while peoples’ motivations for taking and sharing images have remained the same. Compare favorite subjects from different time periods, from dogs to disaster images, and explore Pittsburgh’s cycles of change and renewal. Exhibit interactives will allow visitors to “time travel” by placing themselves in historic photos and encourage them to sharpen their visual detective skills by showing how historic photographs are dated using internal clues. #Pixburgh is a compelling glimpse into Pittsburgh’s past that shows how people illustrate their own lives in a format that is still widely embraced today.

A Lens to the Past

Explore how curators and historians gather evidence and read the clues to unlock the meanings of images and examine the past through the lens of photography. Discover how photography documented and changed our culture, providing a glimpse into the past that is still compelling today. Students will tour the #Pixburgh exhibition, examine historic images, consider how and why people use photographs for multiple purposes, and take part in a hands-on photography collection activity.

Grade Levels: K – 12th
Availability: Dec. 2016 – June 2017

Request Program

Heinz History Center

Nov. 2016 – June 2017

In 1916 a group of art lovers, the “One Hundred Friends of Pittsburgh Art,” began a unique effort to purchase original art from the annual Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Exhibition and donated those works to Pittsburgh Public Schools. Seeking to inspire an appreciation for art and a “love of the beautiful” among school students, the Friends of Art has continued their mission, building a collection that captures the evolution of art and culture in the region. This gift of art, shared with tens of thousands of school children over the last century, will now be shared with the public through an exhibit in the new Barensfeld Gallery at the History Center. The works on view will include some of the first pieces purchased for the collection, as well as art created in the past decade – offering an interesting perspective on the work of regional artists, as well as what that work tells us about this place and its people.

The Gift of Art: Inspired by Pittsburgh

Students will discover how artists have been inspired by the city around them in this new program, designed to integrate visual arts and social studies. Using artifacts, archival materials, and historic photographs, students will find inspiration in the city’s history and look at works of art from the Taking a Closer Look exhibition to see how artists have represented the city in their work. This program can also include an outdoor photography activity to capture students’ own artistic representations of their city.

Grade Levels: K – 12th
Availability: Nov. 2016 – June 2017

Request Program