C’est ici! July is French-American Heritage Month

During July, French-American Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate and honor the relationship France and America have fostered for hundreds of years, since the time of the American colonies to today. In the North Country, we can see France’s influence all around us – through language and culture just across the border in the province of Quebec and in our own families’ traditions and heritage. Travel across the U.S. and you’ll see how the French and Americans of French descent have influenced everything from culinary delights like Gumbo in New Orleans, Louisiana to the names of cities as far apart as Montpelier, Vermont and Boise, Idaho.

The impacts of French citizens on America are vast, including famous intellectuals and artists like Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and Édouard de Laboulaye, who conceived of and designed the Statue of Liberty, to explorers like Samuel de Champlain, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette who charted North America’s great waterways opening up the continent’s interior to European settlement and trade. Americans of French descent have left an equally indelible mark on the U.S., including legendary dancer Jacques d’Amboise, Revolutionary War era hero Paul Revere, and the iconoclastic writer and beat poet Jack Kerouac to name a few.

Keep scrolling to learn about France’s contributions to American culture and history, check out international crafts and activities for all ages, and plan a visit to great local organizations with ties to French culture. Allons-y! Let’s go!

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Explore France’s Impact on American Culture & History

Creation of the Statue of Liberty

Grades 3-12
Explore the idea behind the Statue of Liberty and the inspiration for its creation, including a discussion of the meaning behind the symbols included within the Statue of Liberty. One of the biggest birthday presents ever, France built the statue to mark America’s 100th birthday and to commemorate an alliance between the two countries started during the Revolutionary War.

The Last Artifact

Grades 3-12
Did you know the French originated the metric system of measurement in 1795? Since then, the way we weigh the world has been based on a small metallic cylinder about the diameter of a golf ball, located just outside of Paris inside a high-tech vault. Encased within three vacuum-sealed bell jars, it may not look like much, but it is one of the most important objects on the planet. This extraordinary object, the International Prototype Kilogram, is exactly 1kg in weight and is the physical object by which all measurements of weight in the world were defined – until metrologists worked together to redefine the kilogram in 2018.

Dead Reckoning: Champlain in America collection

Grades 6-12
Examine the significance of French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s interactions with the indigenous people of North America as he searched for a trade route to China. Follow Champlain as he makes his first contact with a large encampment of Innu, or Montagnais, as the French referred to the inhabitants of North America. Then, as Champlain makes repeated journeys back to North America, examine the interactions and alliances he formed with the Innu, agreeing to aide them in their war against the Iroquois in exchange for living on their land and trading with their people. Champlain would create permanent settlements in what was called New France, one of which became Quebec City.

1800-1849 Era | Lesson 1: The Louisiana Purchase

Grades 6-12
Although Native tribes had occupied the Great Plains for centuries, in 1803 the United States acquired the Louisiana territory—828,000 acres west of the Mississippi—from France in the Louisiana Purchase. Thirteen states were carved from the Louisiana Territory. This nearly doubled the size of the United States, making it one of the largest nations in the world.

The Beauty and Anguish of Les Misérables! | It’s Lit!

Grades 9-12
Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is one of history’s most famous novels and one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. In this special episode of It’s Lit! we explore how Les Misérables became both a national and revolutionary anthem, and so publicly adored that all 1,900 pages never went out of print.

Activities, Crafts & More

Let’s Go Luna! Packages Around the World Game

Grades PreK-2
Open packages that Andy, Carmen, and Leo have sent from their adventures abroad! Explore different countries—like France, Thailand, Ghana, and Italy—through unique food, games, and activities.

DIY Toy: Cup & Ball Game

Grades PreK-2
Challenge your child with this DIY version of the classic Cup & Ball game. This game is played throughout the world, including France where it’s known by the name Bilboquet!

Make Three Kid-Friendly Rice Dishes: Jambalaya from New Orleans, USA

Grades PreK-3
Try this kid-friendly recipe for the delicious creole dish Jambalaya! Then, using the other recipes linked in the article, discuss how rice is a staple part of the diet in many different countries around the world and how each culture prepares their traditional version.

Explore It: The Statue of Liberty

Grades 3-8
Fly around the Statue of Liberty, experiencing history through the statue’s intricate details with this online interactive. Learn about how the Statue of Liberty was almost not built at all, and the challenges that the builders faced once construction began, through a combination of historic photographs, design sketches and video clips.

The Louisiana Purchase | Interactive Lesson

Grades 9-12
Explore the motivations for the Louisiana Purchase, as well as the terms of the purchase and its consequences in this interactive lesson from WGBH. Resources include videos featuring historian Ben Weber and primary source documents, images, and maps.

Local Organizations & Traditions

Kent-Delord House Museum

All Ages
The three generations of the Delord Family were prominent citizens in the North Country community, beginning with Henry Delord who came to the Plattsburgh, NY area as a French immigrant, ultimately fulfilling the American dream of success in the early 19th century. Visit the Kent-Delord House Museum in Plattsburgh, NY for a glimpse into the family’s daily lifestyle, and events of the time, through historic relics and family heirlooms from the nineteenth century.

Château Ramezay

All Ages
Built in 1705 as the residence of the governor of Montreal, you can explore more than 500 years of history through Château Ramezay’s exhibits, multimedia portrayals of historic figures, and French colonial style garden. Located in Montreal, Quebec, it is the province’s oldest private history museum with strong connections to historic events like the American Revolution. Serving as the former headquarters of the American Revolutionary Army in 1775, it hosted the likes of Richard Montgomery, Benedict Arnold, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase and Charles Carol.

Fort Ticonderoga

All Ages
Welcoming visitors since 1909, Fort Ticonderoga preserves 2,000 acres of historic landscape on Lake Champlain, and Carillon Battlefield, and the largest series of untouched Revolutionary War era earthworks surviving in America. Located in Ticonderoga, NY, it’s a great place to learn more about our nation’s earliest years and America’s military heritage. Fort Ticonderoga offers educational programs, historic interpretation, demonstrations, exhibits and interactive, online resources throughout the year.

Wagon Wheel Rug Making

Grades 6-12
Traditional Arts in Upstate New York partnered with Mountain Lake PBS to produce this video on wagon wheel rug making as part of a regional “Folk Arts” series. Learn about the French-Canadian history of this unique craft from Francoise Ouimet of Valley Falls, NY and watch as she creates a rug using the techniques passed down by her family for generations.