Learning About World Heritage with Coloring Books in Mt. Airy

Imagine a second grader flying a kite around her classroom that she designed and constructed herself. Does it seem impossible? Not really! 

Throughout the spring, teachers in grades kindergarten through fifth grade, at the School District of Philadelphia’s Henry H. Houston School in Mt. Airy, created imaginative projects based on the Philadelphia World Heritage Coloring Book

In January, Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) World Heritage Program Manager Melissa Stevens and Educational Consultant Sarah Sharp led Houston School teachers through the new pilot World Heritage Program, “Learning About World Heritage with Coloring Books,” which enables young students to learn about their own heritage, as well as that of our city’s and the global community. 

Five teachers committed to implementing the World Heritage Coloring Book into their curriculum through the development of a specific project, completion of pre- and post-surveys to understand what their students had learned about heritage, maintain periodic contact with Sarah Sharp, and complete a final report summarizing their experiences with the program, among other steps.  

GPA supported these teachers’ participation in the pilot program in many ways. As part of the introduction to Houston School, there was strong support from Principal Leroy Hall and School-based Teacher Leader Jennifer McKenzie. Teachers received coloring books for each of their students, along with numerous other materials, as well as $100 mini-grants to support their early implementation, followed by an additional $200 upon completion of all of the steps. Sarah Sharp visited with each teacher individually occasionally between February and June to learn about his or her progress, suggest additional resources focused on Philadelphia’s heritage, and see what each class accomplished.

Teachers were honored as WHATs (World Heritage Ambassador Teachers), in recognition of their enthusiastic classroom project development, particularly focused around visual arts, literature, and history. They spent their mini-grants on postage to mail postcards showcasing illustrations pulled directly from the coloring book to family and friends, a phone app that turned photos of student designs into new coloring book pages, and art supplies and books for student use in creating new coloring book pages.

The teachers also built on previous curricular connections involving several Philadelphia resources, such as History Hunters and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and they utilized virtual tours of historic sites that are also featured in the coloring book, such as the Betsy Ross House and the Shofuso House. Further, they used several literary works such as Ezra Keats’ Pet Show!, Patricia Polacco’s Thundercake, and Jacob Lawrence’s The Great Migration, which helped to develop students’ ideas about their own lives, communities, and heritage. 

So, what did the students ultimately create? Utilizing educational “best practices,” some classes selected their favorite historical site from the coloring book and created a kite depicting that site, including new details about the location too. One second grade class researched and created their own historical tour called, Philadelphia Through Our Eyes, which runs on SEPTA’s #23 bus route and travels along Germantown Avenue. This class’ teacher will move with this group into third grade in the 2019 - 2020 school year and students will continue the project, which will include a field trip based on the tour they created. Imagine this group streaming through the aisles of Reading Terminal Market with their chaperones! 

Another class shared paper cut-outs of the coloring book characters, Olivia and Caleb, with relatives in surrounding communities and had the characters “visit” Jenkintown and other neighborhoods. Several classes also developed their own coloring books that depicted favorite sites that held meaning in the students’ own lives. Overall, the classes and their teachers expanded their understanding of heritage and history,    personally and in Philadelphia’s history too.

It was an exciting and successful pilot to launch GPA’s “Learning about World Heritage With Coloring Books” Program at Henry Houston School in Mt. Airy.  As one teacher commented, “the sky’s the limit!” Teachers expect to use the program again in 2019 - 2020 school year and expand the student engagement time that they devote to it. GPA staff has already invited additional schools to implement the program in the fall as well.

For more information about implementing this program in your school, contact GPA's World Heritage Program Manager Melissa Stevens at 215-563-2483 or [email protected], or Educational Consultant Sarah Sharp at [email protected] 


Article written by Sarah Sharp on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association