AAS Brings "Isaiah Thomas" Into All Fifth Grade Classrooms

Isaiah Thomas

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) will bring Worcester’s revolutionary war hero Isaiah Thomas, as portrayed by professional actor Neil Gustafson, into every fifth-grade classroom in the Worcester Public Schools with an educational program entitled Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer. Isaiah Thomas founded AAS in 1812 as the first national historical organization. The program is currently touring to 33 schools and will reach approximately 1,800 students. Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer also comprises online resources, including lesson plans developed by teachers and digital copies of historic images and documents found in the AAS collections.

The Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer program is part of an initiative, known as Culture LEAP (Learning through Education and Arts Partnerships), that seeks to offer intensive curriculum based cultural experiences to all students in a given grade. Culture LEAPS are collaborative efforts by the Worcester Public Schools, a working group of the Worcester Cultural Coalition composed of twenty-two education directors from the region’s cultural organizations, and the Worcester Education Development Foundation, Inc. (WEDF). Currently there are eight LEAPS impacting students in seven grades. The Isaiah Thomas- Patriot Printer LEAP is funded in part by the United Bank Foundation.

During the performance of Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer, Gustafson as Thomas shares with students some documents from his collection. He tells his own life story and the story of the early American nation through these documents. These same materials are found in the online facsimile/curriculum guide (http://www.americanantiquarian.org/itprogram.htm), along with lesson plans that provide detailed instructions on how teachers can use these documents to teach American history, geography, and literature to their students. Each lesson plan is also tied directly to local, state and national frameworks for the Social Sciences.

Neil Gustafson is a professional actor whose list of theater credits includes work with Worcester Foothills Theatre Company, the Lyric Stage, and other regional theater companies. Gustafson has appeared in the films A Midwife’s Tale and Next Stop Wonderland, and his television work has included segments of The Practice and Spenser: For Hire.

James David Moran, AAS Director of Outreach, wrote the script and produced the presentation of Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer. He has written and produced many works, including The Chains of Liberty, a play about Worcester’s role in starting the American Revolution; a series of theatrical presentations based upon the portraits displayed in Worcester’s Mechanics Hall, called Portraits Come Alive and Portraits of Freedom; and a radio program, The History Show, which appeared on 151 public radio stations in 47 states. Moran and Gustafson also collaborated on a longer play about Isaiah Thomas entitled Preserving All Others, which was presented at the Society’s annual meeting in October 1999.

The American Antiquarian Society was founded in 1812, making it the third oldest historical society in the United States and the first to be national in its scope. Patriot printer Isaiah Thomas, who sought to create an American learned society that would preserve the history of the nation he helped create, founded the Society with that goal in mind. Today, AAS carries on that mission as a national research library and center of scholarship.