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2023 Spring Seminar Program

Applications are now open for the Spring 2023 Program. The due date is Tuesday, November 1, 2022. Click here to learn how to apply.

TIP will hold a virtual open house on Tuesday, September 6th, 4:30pm at which seminar leaders will present their course content and interested candidates can ask questions. Email to RSVP.

The Teachers Institute of Philadelphia (TIP) invites teachers from around the School District of Philadelphia to participate in its 15-week seminar program in spring 2023. Led by professors in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and STEM fields, the seminars enable participants (called fellows) to write original curriculum units based on the material they have learned. Participation in TIP helps teachers build their content knowledge and improve results in the classroom. Fellows develop creative ways to teach material required by District, state and national curriculum standards. Seminars meet Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5-7 pm, in a mostly-in-person format.* Upon successful completion of the program, fellows earn 30 Act 48 credits and a $1,500 stipend. Part 1 of the TIP application is available now; the deadline will be Tuesday, November 1, 2022. Those applicants deemed eligible will be invited to complete part 2. To apply visit or email

*If face-to-face meetings are not possible at the time the seminars are held, the program will be conducted remotely.

W.E.B. Du Bois and Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward
Amy Hillier, Penn Social Policy and Practice; meets on Thursdays

Starting with a close read of The Philadelphia Negro, this seminar will critically examine the research and thinking of the great scholar and civil rights leader, W.E.B. Du Bois as a way of understanding racism and the “color line” at the turn of the 20th Century. We will focus on primary source documents and digital humanities methods, including oral history and geographic information systems (GIS) for mapping and spatial analysis, as ways to engage students of all ages in understanding the contemporary challenges we face relating to race and racism through an historical lens. The seminar will explore the possibilities and limitations of systematic empirical data collection and analysis as a means of affecting social change, including the legacies of the settlement house and social survey movements and scientific racism. 

Music and Healing in Philadelphia
Carol Muller, Penn Music; meets on Thursdays

There are two parts to this class: in the first we explore ways in which music has been used for social-emotional healing, building resilience in the face of adversity, and individual and collective well-being.  We read on music, the brain, and emotion; and think about the impact of adversity, and the work of music and creativity as vehicles of restoration and healing.  In the second part, we focus on a particular moment in Philadelphia’s music history: Philly Soul and the Philadelphia International Record (PIR) label that created the genre in the 1970s.  Philly Soul emerged in conversation with Motown in Detroit and was the brainchild of two young black men: a student from West Philly High School, Kenny Gamble, and the Camden born Leonard Huff. PIR earned many Grammys, and put the city on the map both for the music and the message of social justice in its lyrics.  We will listen to that music, read, and learn about one piece of Philadelphia’s rich black music history from some of those involved in creating the music, a story rarely told or taught in the School District of Philadelphia.

Planning for a Sustainable, Environmentally Just, and Climate-Ready Philadelphia
Christina Rosan, Temple Geography and Urban Studies; meets Thursdays

Nicknamed Filthadelphia, the city’s urban environment faces enormous challenges and presents numerous opportunities, particularly when we plan for climate. The course will explore Philadelphia’s urban environment, the past, the present, and the future. We will examine Philadelphia’s history, planning, policies, politics, and technologies around urban agriculture, green stormwater infrastructure, the urban heat island, solar and renewable energy, vacant land management, air pollution, water, trash, environmental justice, climate mitigation, and climate change planning. The course will also introduce new technologies for civic environmental monitoring and engagement such as low-cost air pollution monitoring and other environmental sensing, storytelling, and mapping technologies.

Cancer: Causes, Cures, and Community
Yehoda Martei, Penn Medicine; Co-Instructors: David Mankoff & Cauleen Noël; meets on Wednesdays

Cancer describes an enormous spectrum of diseases that originate from uncontrolled cellular growth. This seminar will begin with an introduction to the biology of cancer and its clinical care. The course will cover items that include causes of cancer; approaches to its prevention, diagnosis, and treatment; related technology for diagnosis and treatment; cancer-related health care disparities; cancer-related medical ethics, and career pathways in cancer research and clinical practice. The course will also include a hands-on experiment using the model organism drosophila (fruit flies) to investigate the impact of nutrition on tumor growth and progression, which will be coupled with a visit to the Free Library Culinary Learning Center. Fellows will receive information from guest lecturers as well as the lead faculty, and weekly readings will include scientific literature, articles from the press, short videos, and/or podcasts.

Video introduction

Premodern Animals
Emily Steiner, Penn English; meets on Thursdays

This seminar will explore the human-animal divide in medieval and early modern culture (c.800-1500 CE). Then as now, writers, scholars, and artists used animals to think through what it means to be human, as well as what it means to engage ethically and imaginatively with the natural world. They wondered, for example, whether it made sense to arrange species hierarchically, with angels at the top and oysters above plants, and what the Genesis creation story revealed about the rank, order, and evolution of living creatures. Which characteristics distinguished human from non-human animals (e.g., reason, immortality, individuality), and which threatened to collapse such distinctions (e.g., suffering, trainability, love)? Could animals be exemplars of good behaviors—e.g., ants and industriousness? How might collections of animals – zoos, alphabetical encyclopedias (E is for Elephant), Noah’s ark – stand in for all knowledge? And finally, how might the invention of fantastical and hybrid beasts—unicorns, centaurs, basilisks—help readers navigate a globe that was for premodern people un-circumnavigable? Our readings, drawn from early Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, will range from philosophical commentaries to Aesopian fables, werewolf legends to travel narratives, and chivalric romances to saints’ lives.