David DiCostanzo, Social Studies department chair at Vineland High School North, recently participated in a program sponsored by the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS). DiCostanzo was one of only seven educators in New Jersey selected to receive the grant “Telling our Story: Living in New Jersey in the 1770s.”
The grant provided a unique opportunity to work with research specialists and two distinguished professors on original research that is in the personal papers of people from New Jersey in the 18th century. DiCostanzo completed his research on Philip Vickers Fithian, a New Jersey-born tutor and missionary who is best known for his diary detailing life in colonial Virginia. Fithian’s diary contains his observations on Virginia’s slavery, plantation life, education, entertainment, and religion. As DiCostanzo notes in his article, Cumberland County has a rich history associated with the American Revolution, including the Greenwich Tea Party, which took place in support of the revolutionary cause. Fithian was born in Greenwich and many of his letters and diary entries helped to provide insight into what life was like for people living in NJ during the Revolution.
DiCostanzo researched at the Cumberland County Historical Society, where he was required to scan and use several primary sources in order to publish an article, produce a 5-minute documentary, and create at least three decision-based lesson activities for various high school students around the state. His work will be published on the NJCCS website and through the New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal Vol. 7 No. 2 (2022): Summer 2022.
The NJCSS grant is part of an ongoing effort to prepare educators in NJ for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution during the 2025-26 school year. The celebrations will continue through 2031 and are part of the overall mission of the NJCSS to provide and make available meaningful lessons and activities to students, teachers, and the public.
The video on Philip Vickers Fithian can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/3rZBTpz
The article can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/34Ng0ko
The lessons can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/3rV94dQ