More than 5,000 local students have been exposed to the historical sights and sounds at Old Fort Niagara during the last month, thanks to a program sponsored by the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

“Fridays on the Frontier” took place weekly during October, immersing fourth and seventh graders in the lives of French soldiers, English captives and Native people who lived in the Niagara region during the colonial period.

As part of the interactive program, students and teachers had the opportunity to “meet” the people of the Niagara Frontier, including Jean Lowry, an English woman who was captured by a Native war party, Native Americans who lived near the fort, voyagers who paddled the canoes carrying trade goods and furs throughout the Great Lakes, and many more. Students also engaged in hands-on education of the trades and skills of the diverse people who lived in the Niagara region during the colonial period, such as blacksmiths, bakers and others.

The “Fridays on the Frontier” program aligned with the New York state curriculum and introduced students to the important role the Niagara region had in history. Admission and bus transportation to Old Fort Niagara were complimentary for program participants.

Old Fort Niagara’s French Heritage Day, which takes place Friday, Nov. 6, is also included in the program. Approximately 600 students from 20 school districts will be attending

“Old Fort Niagara is more than a beautiful, first-class historic site – it is a time machine,” remarked Christina Henderson, a fourth grade teacher at Roy-Hart Elementary School. “(This experience) is beyond standards on paper and the politics of education that often cloud what is best for students. This is about being immersed, hands-on, in history that was made here. It is beyond what any textbook, any article or any SMART Board lesson that we could have provided.”

The Niagara Frontier, from first contact to today, has played a critical role in the contest of nations (European, Native American and Colonial/American) for economic and political control of the river and its falls. As a key transportation nexus, the region has evolved as an international border with resulting impacts and consequences to its history and character.

Dr. Tom Chambers, a professor of history at Niagara University, serves as president of Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Inc. The organization’s offices are housed on the NU campus.

“The NFNHA is proud to provide area students with a hands-on learning experience that brings them to our region’s premier historic site,” Dr. Chambers noted. “Old Fort Niagara’s programs engage students in the sights, sounds and smells of the 18th century in ways that excite today’s learners. We hope that these students will not only learn more about our region’s history, but also return with their families to the fort and other historic sites.”

The “Fridays on the Frontier” program aligns with the Every Kids in a Park Initiative to celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area is committed to supporting the initiative by working to introduce children to their outdoor land, history and culture. For more information on the Every Kid in a Park Initiative, visit www.everykidinapark.gov.

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area was created by Congress in 2008 in recognition of the nationally significant natural phenomenon of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River Gorge, its tourism and recreation, and its stories of power, industrial development, and borderland history. It provides a mechanism for organizations, governments, and residents of Niagara Falls, Lewiston, Youngstown, and surrounding communities to come together to conserve, enhance, and interpret the region’s natural, scenic, cultural, historic, and recreational resources. More information is available at www.discoverniagara.org.

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