Hillsborough High teacher publishes fellowship project

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A Hillsborough High School Social Studies teacher, Robert Fenster, had his work titled “American Painting, Poetry, Progress, and Prose in the Nineteenth Century” recently published ​online​.

His project is the culmination of research following his month-long Reese Teacher Fellowship at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Fenster was awarded the prestigious and highly competitive William Reese Company Teacher Fellowship in April 2018. The annual Fellowship is open to all high school educators, and awardees are selected based on their project’s potential to enrich high school curriculum though an interdisciplinary connection between American art and another subject topic by using primary sources from the Crystal Bridges Library’s Rare Book and Archives collections.

The teacher awarded the fellowship is expected to spend one month at Crystal Bridges Museum and is provided with $4,000 to cover expenses such as travel and lodging during his/her stay. The awardee is provided access to the art and library special collections at the Museum as well as the library at the University of Arkansas to conduct research.

Fenster has taught at Hillsborough High School since 1993. He is a member of the Hillsborough Township Public Schools Social Studies Department and teaches courses in United States History and Government & Politics. Fenster is also the co-advisor of the Hillsborough High School Model Congress, Model United Nations, Mock Trial, and Amnesty International extracurricular organizations.

Fenster’s Reese Fellowship project focused on curating materials for teachers of social studies, art, and English covering the mid-19th century and the nexus between the Hudson River School of landscape art, the Knickerbocker group, and Transcendentalist movement writers, and westward expansion’s impact on Native Americans and nature.

The study of these topics as they intersect is complicated by moral and ethical questions that have no simple answers. Fenster’s educational module focuses on curated art, literature, and history but does not provide concrete answers to the questions raised in the classroom, forcing students to develop their own perspectives on this time period in history and the resulting ramifications that followed to present day.

“I created materials that a teacher could use for a 20-minute lesson or for a two-week lesson arc or anything in between,” said  Fenster when describing his final published project. “The idea was to promote interdisciplinary studies to help students get a more holistic understanding of the time period.”