(12994 bytes) For the Children
Polish-American Heritage Database
A Resource for Educators

Let the Children Know

Musem photo
Club docent Teresa Gessner with a class of schoolchildren at the Polonia exhibit

In 1997, as the sesquicentennial approached of the founding of St. Stanislaus, the first Polish parish in Buffalo, members of the Board of the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo made a formal proposal to the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society that it marked the anniversary with a historical exhibit.

This seemed particularly appropriate, given that among sizable metropolitan areas in the United States, Buffalo and Erie County have the highest plurality of individuals who claim Polish ancestry, the 2000 US Census recording this to be true of 19% of the local inhabitants.

The proposal was accepted by the Society and resulted in the mounting at the Society's Historical Museum of Buffalo Polonia 1873-1998, a major exhibit that opened on October 24, 1998 and run through February 7, 1999. Subsequently, it was reconstituted by the Historical Society as a traveling exhibit for showing at various locations around the county and abroad. Notably, it was transported and shown in Buffalo's Polish Sister City, Rzeszow.

The Club assisted in the mounting of the exhibit by helping secure artifacts, by identifying individuals who could give a historical perspective on the Polish community, by writing commentaries for some of the exhibits, by making a $1000 donation to the Society, and by sponsoring a fund-raising musical event to benefit the Historical Society.

Museum photo
Children visiting the Polonia exhibit after
having donned Polish folk costumes
Concurrently, under the leadership of Board Member, Dr. Teresa Gessner, the Club's Education Committee - whose members were Cynthia and Ralph Baumgartner, Therese Conlin Clarke, Dr. Peter Gessner, Felix Klempka, Stanley Nowak, Arthur Parks, and Anne Szczesny - undertook the Let the Children Know initiative.

Its global goal was to encourage Social Science teachers at schools in the metro area to bring the classes on visits to the exhibit for discussions of Polish American heritage in the context of lessons on immigration. More specifically, the Committee prepared a Polish-American Heritage Instructional Package to serve as a resource for teachers preparing their classes for visit to the exhibit.

In generating the 140 page Package, the Committee had access and permission to use portions of Curriculum Resource Guide prepared by the Chicago's Polish American Heritage Committee for distribution to Chicago Schools. Copies of the Package were distributed to interested teachers in area schools. Also, funds were solicited so as make it possible to pay for bus rentals and museum entrance fees for schools requesting such assistance and members of the committee acting as docents, guided classes around the exhibit.

The exhibit, according to the calculations made by the Director of the Historical Society, increased attendance at the museum over a similar period during the preceding year by 22%. Over 900 children visited the exhibit on class trips, a total of 10 schools arranging such trips. The initiative also envisaged the transfer of the Package's materials, appropriately edited and amplified, to the electronic medium of the Internet. This has since taken place, the materials in question forming the core of the For the Children section of the Poland in the Classroom pages of the Polish Academic Information Center's Info-Poland website.


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