Archive for the ‘Tales of the Towpath’ Category

Tales of the Towpath Gets Rave Reviews

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Morning Call columnist Bill White recently featured Tales of the Towpath in his weekly column.  Bill visited a a social studies fair at Roosevelt Elementary School in Allentown, where the fourth-grade classes were presenting their Tales of the Towpath-themed projects.  The book’s author (and D&L staff member) Dennis Scholl was the guest celebrity judge, who had the tough job of choosing between projects on a wide variety of nineteenth-century topics, from Josiah White and canals to mules and the Potato Famine.  Please click here to read Bill White’s impressions of the event.

To visit the new Tales of the Towpath website, click here.

To purchase a copy of Tales of the Towpath, click here.

Tales of the Towpath Audio Book Now Available

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The popular children’s storybook “Tales of the Towpath” has been released in audiobook version as a teaching tool for low-level readers, visually-impaired students, and English as a Second Language (ESL) students taking part in the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor’s Tales of the Towpath curriculum. The curriculum is being taught to fourth- and fifth-grade students in 57 public, private, parochial and charter schools in Lehigh, Northampton, Bucks, Carbon and Luzerne counties.

The audio book was produced by Touchstone Theater of Bethlehem. Bill George, a Touchstone co-founder, narrates the 24-chapter audiobook, providing the voices of the book’s protagonist, Finn Gorman, and other book characters. Direction, recording and sound design was done by Touchstone Producer, JP Jordan. The project was funded through a grant from the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation.

“Tales of the Towpath” was written by D&L Outreach Coordinator, Dennis Scholl, and is the focal point of a state-approved, standardized elementary school curriculum that introduces students to life in eastern Pennsylvania in the 1850s, when anthracite coal mined in Carbon and Luzerne counties was fueling unbridled industrial growth along the Lehigh and Delaware canals. Finn Gorman’s adventures introduce readers to communities and industries along the canals and the people who lived and worked in them. The storybook is available at local bookstores and the D&L’s online store. The audiobook is available only to participating schools but will be available by download on the D&L website early next year.

Congressman Dent Reads Tales of the Towpath

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent (R-15th) took time from his busy Washington DC schedule to spend the morning of February 18 reading selections from the D&L children’s storybook – Tales of the Towpath – to fourth-grade students at Freemansburg Elementary School in the Bethlehem School District and Slatington Elementary School in the Northern Lehigh School District.

Cong. Dent’s appearances were part of his ongoing effort to encourage students to read and learn more about the history of their communities.Congressman Charlie Dent takes questions from an enthusiastic group of 4th graders.

Principal Leigh Rusnak introduced Cong. Dent to 75 students at Freemansburg Elementary who are learning the history of the Lehigh and Delaware canals through the Tales of the Towpath curriculum, which was developed from the storybook. Dent fielded questions from the students that ranged from “Do you know President Obama?” to “Why is history important to us?” The Congressman took his time answering and also explained his job and how he got it. At Slatington Elementary, Dent was asked if he would like to live along ago. He thought for a moment and then stuck his hands into his pockets, pulling out two Blackberry devices and telling the children, “I don’t think I would have done well back then without these. I use them all the time to keep track of all the things I have to do. It would be tough for me to adapt to life back then.”

Freemansburg and Slatington are among the 32 elementary schools implementing the Tales of the Towpath curriculum this year. Nearly 2,000 students are learning local history through the adventures of Finn Gorman, a fictional 10-year-old boy whose father owns and operates a canal boat on the Lehigh and Delaware canals.

“Finn’s story is important to learn,” Dent told students at both schools. “History helps us learn where we came from and how our towns grew, but it also provides lessons that can guide us in the future.”

Tales of the Towpath is now available for purchase from the D&L store.

Traveling Trunks hit the road

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Image you are in fourth grade. Over several weeks, your teacher has read a book about a nineteenth-century boy, the same age as you that grew up in a town just down the road. You learned what games he played, what chores he had to do, and what sights, smells, and noises he experienced. Your teacher has a big, wooden trunk from which they pulled the very items you read about in the book–coal! a conch shell horn! a straw hat! Jacob’s ladder! You are even chosen to dress up like the main character!Dennis Scholl unveils a traveling trunk to a group of students (Photo by Times Leader)

With the kick off of the D&L’s Traveling Trunks program, hundreds of elementary school students will enjoy this same experience. The pilot program is off to a great start with trunks in a handful of classrooms across five different counties and more to come.

Local History Comes to Life 

Outreach Coordinator Dennis Scholl developed the Traveling Trunks program to bring the rich history of nineteenth-century canal life to elementary school students across the Lehigh Valley. The trunks, constructed by students in a woodworking class at Moravian Academy, are authentic canvas and wood replicas of those used by canal boat captains and their families. Each trunk contains a variety of items, from old-fashioned games and toys to arrows heads, a mule feed bag, and a DVD of rare canal footage. The items complement a full-length book: Tales of the Towpath.Students will learn about the lives of real young men and women, like this nineteenth-century boy.

The book, authored by Scholl, follows the life of Finn Gorman, a fictional Irish man from Freemansburg, who reflects back on his time as a ten-year old boy living along the Lehigh Canal. As teachers and students work their way though the book, they will learn about the items contained in the trunks. Because Tales of the Towpath is set in the Lehigh Valley and is based on Scholl’s historical research, students will also learn about the often-forgotten history of their hometowns.

Serious Learning

The trunks are not just fun and games.  The Traveling Trunks curriculum is aligned with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s academic standards, and the training course offered to participating teachers has received Act 48 accreditation. Scholl worked closely with the D&L’s twenty-member Educational Advisory Team, composed of educators and historians, to develop a program that would appeal not only to students but to teachers as well. Recognizing that educators are increasingly hard pressed for time to incorporate outside materials, the Trunks curriculum is clearly related to subjects already taught in the classroom. “We’re trying to offer teachers all types of options for education and then allow them to pick and choose which ones suit their needs,” said Scholl. “There are opportunities to teach language, arts, math, science, geography, social studies, art, music, and even family and consumer science.”

Looking forward to the full launch

Currently, Traveling Trunks is in the pilot stage. During the spring, Scholl hopes to gather feedback from teachers and finalize the trunks’ content and curriculum. “We want these pilot teachers to help us decide what works and what doesn’t,” said Scholl. With the full program launch in fall 2009, additional trunks will be added to the program and rotate between classrooms and schools.

For more information on the Traveling Trunks program or Tales of the Towpath, please contact Dennis Scholl at or 610-923-3548 (ext. 225).

Funding for Traveling Trunks comes from the Keystone Nazareth Charitable Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, through Senator Robert Wonderling, PA DCNR, Luzerne Foundation, Sovereign Bankcorp, Sovereign Securities, Embassy Bank, Capital BlueCross, and the D&L.