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Kids learn to love American history through "Hamilton" camps

Until recently, most kids would not have elected to spend their summer looking at old paintings or diving into Revolutionary War history. But that was before “Hamilton” gave them a soundtrack and road map that brought the nation’s founding to life, even for the youngest Americans, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. Two years in, it’s still the hottest ticket on Broadway. 

“Hamilton” is also firing up young imaginations far from New York City in places like Kansas City, Laguna Beach and Chicago, where the musical has kids singing and dancing their way back in time.

Many of them have never seen the show but they still know every word — like middle schoolers Theresa, Zach and Katherine at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland, where kids were clamoring this summer for a spot in “Hamilton” dance camp. 
 
“I saw on the list ‘Hamilton’ dance, and immediately I was like ‘mom, I want to be in that camp!'” Theresa said.


Theresa, Zach and Katherine  

CBS News

Asked on a scale of one to 10, how obsessed he is with “Hamilton,” Zach said, “I was gonna say 11, but I’d go more like 11.5.” 

“I actually got my dad into it and he actually started learning the history of Alexander Hamilton, so we like, discuss it together,” Theresa said.

That passion makes teaching to “Hamilton” both a joy and a challenge for dance instructor Ashlee McKinnon. 

“As soon as we finished one song for choreography, they would immediately start singing the next song according to the sound track. It’s like guys, guys we’re not there yet,” McKinnon said.  

It’s all music to the ears of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who told “CBS This Morning” in 2016 that teaching history has become part of the musical’s core mission.

“What’s exciting is, we’ve got 20,000 students coming to see this show over the course of the next year,” Miranda said. “Yeah, and one of the things that’s part of the curriculum when they come to the show is they’re creating performance pieces based on other histories.”

Miranda started a program called Eduham with 13,000 kids in New York. It will reach more than 250,000 students over the next five years, bringing an intensive “Hamilton”-themed history curriculum to kids all over the country as the musical continues its U.S. tour.

“I think Lin Miranda and ‘Hamilton’ have presented us with an opportunity that we must not lose,” said historian Jim Basker who helps oversee Eduham. “The founding era can seem to many students today like castor oil. Take it, it’s good for you. But with the help of ‘Hamilton,’ our students are finding it the most wonderful era to dive into and take ownership themselves.” 

“The only thing I knew about Alexander Hamilton was that he was on the back of the $10 bill,” Zach said.

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CBS News

That’s all a lot of people knew; in fact a lot of people thought he was president at some point — a case of art illuminating life.

“My history teacher had the ‘Common Sense’ book by Thomas Paine. I was like, wait ‘don’t they mention that in the song’,” Katherine said. “I’ve been reading ‘Common Sense’ by Thomas Paine.”

There are “Hamilton” camps in at least a dozen states and several of them said they’re expanding their offerings next summer to meet public demand. 

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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