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Lehigh Valley nonprofits collaborate on new ‘Rise and Fall of Bethlehem Steel’ virtual field trip

March 31st, 2021 |

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The National Museum of Industrial History and Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites have teamed up to launch a new, virtual, bilingual field trip that puts students in the shoes of immigrant steelworkers as they learn about Bethlehem’s rich industrial past. Developed in coordination with the Bethlehem Area School District, the new program takes the popular ‘Rise and Fall of Bethlehem Steel’ tour and makes it accessible for students both virtually and in the classroom.

“The landscape of education has changed drastically in the past year, and the ability to educate our students about the important history of our area is an invaluable resource,” said Dr. Joseph Roy, Superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District. “While we continue to evolve with new online learning initiatives, this collaboration with Bethlehem cultural institutions gives us another engaging tool to teach about our community’s heritage.”

From learning about the raw materials used to make steel to investigating the diverse cultures of those who settled in the Lehigh Valley to work at Bethlehem Steel, the virtual field trip incorporates STEM and social history topics and is available in both Spanish and English. Throughout five lessons, participants follow a diverse cast of characters through a multi-faceted exploration of the history and impact of the company locally, nationally, and internationally. Educators receive a classroom kit that allows students to touch real examples of natural resources used in the steel making process. Throughout the lessons students can watch videos, navigate to interactive pages with audio and visual components, and test their knowledge with quizzes and extension activities.

The program was piloted with a group of 5th-grade Bethlehem Area School District students and received positive feedback from students and educators alike. “I didn’t know that the Bethlehem Industry was a big part of people’s lives in the past, and because of that, they had to use new ways of transportation such as canals and railroads,” said one student. “Seeing all the pictures from the past and now, I love learning about old, ‘cool’ history.” another student shared.

LoriAnn Wukitsch, Vice President and Managing Director of Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, noted, “the collaboration has allowed our organizations to produce an educational program that covers everything from the importance of the Moravian history in Bethlehem through the transformation of the Bethlehem Steel Plant into a repurposed industrial site home to a vibrant arts and cultural district.”

“With curriculum tied to state and national standards, we hope this pilot program will allow us to reach not only students in the Lehigh Valley who are learning through virtual or hybrid systems, but a whole new group of students who may not have been able to come to the museum in person,” said Kara Mohsinger, President and CEO of the National Museum of Industrial History. “The possibilities that virtual tours have opened for students are limitless and we are grateful for the generous support this project has received from the community.”

The Rise and Fall of Bethlehem Steel Virtual Field Trip, one of the first virtual field trips of its kind in the Lehigh Valley was developed with support from Air Products Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, Embassy Bank for the Lehigh Valley, and Northampton County. Funding for the Bethlehem Area School District’s virtual field trip program was provided by The Foundation for the Bethlehem Area School District.

About the National Museum of Industrial History
A Smithsonian Institution-affiliate, the National Museum of Industrial History is dedicated to preserving America’s rich industrial heritage. Housed in an 18,000-square-foot, 100-year-old former Bethlehem Steel facility on the largest private brownfield in America, the Museum is home to exciting exhibits, engaging programs, and amazing history. Learn more at nmih.org.

About Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites
Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites is a not-for-profit institution that brings to life three centuries of American history. Historic Bethlehem tells the story of a small town of great influence, home to some of our nation’s earliest settlers, to America’s first municipal water pumping system, and to one of the world’s greatest industrial companies. Learn more at historicbethlehem.org.

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