Inspiring participation in public affairs
in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson’s life, thought, and ideals.

Educational Outreach

 “If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it...I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue, and advancing the happiness of man.” 
—Thomas Jefferson

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation Educational Outreach Programs promote civic responsibility, community service, and an understanding of our founding period, and provide a glimpse of Jefferson's genius and influence in so many areas.  The JLF offers a variety of FREE programs that bring American history and the ideals and principles of Thomas Jefferson alive. Programs currently available to schools, community groups, and organizations include:

A Bagful of Stories with the "Thomas Jefferson Lady"
Storybag filled with items prompting tales about TJ and the early American republic. Rave reviews from local schools!
All ages

Lewis & Clark Journey to the Schools
15 mounted color posters from Monticello accompanied by a 27-page Teacher's Guide commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Grades 6-12

Meet the President...No Strings Attached!
Puppet Show about the life and times of Thomas Jefferson, entertainingly performed by "The Traveling Storyteller."
Grades K-4
Founding Father Fête
A Birthday Celebration for Thomas Jefferson. Lessons in democracy mix with entertainment, games, hands-on activities, and standard birthday fare! A fantastic field trip for school groups.
Grades K-6

Tom & Jim's Excellent Adventure
Traveling Exhibit about Jefferson & Madison's
Trip to Vermont in 1791 and Jefferson's Role in VT Statehood.
Grades 9-12

Someone's in the Garden with TJ: An 8-week summer program at the Ripton Elementary School
A 8-week summer program at the Ripton
Community Garden.  Jefferson's models of sustainability and civic participation take kids and adults far beyond planting and weeding.
All ages

Educational Presentations: Scholarly yet widely accessible talks by Jefferson scholar and JLF Chairman, Sydney N. "Chip" Stokes, Jr.

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation offers educational and scholarly presentations. JLF Chairman Sydney N. "Chip" Stokes, Jr. gives periodic talks to local and national organizations, schools, historical societies, churches, naturalization ceremonies, seniors associations, art centers, museums, libraries, and more.

Chip Stokes has been studying Thomas Jefferson seriously for more than two decades. What began as his own private collection 20 years ago has become The Jefferson Legacy Foundation Library. Jefferson scholar Merrill Peterson has described the Library as "undoubtedly the best collection of Jeffersonia in private hands in the United States, or in the world." From the extensive resources of the JLF Library and beyond, Stokes has acquired an impressive command of his subject matter. He has developed a presentation style that is scholarly, yet widely accessible — he is well-received by historical societies and elementary school audiences alike. Stokes has shared thoughts on Jefferson's legacy; topics include self government, religious and intellectual freedom, education, architecture, and Jefferson's trip to Vermont in 1791.

Chip Stokes is available for lectures, informal talks, and classroom presentations. We are also happy to discuss tailoring presentations for specific needs.  Topics include the early American republic; founding principles; the meaning of the Declaration of Independence; Jefferson & Madison's trip to Vermont; Jefferson's role in Vermont statehood; Jefferson's ideas on religious & intellectual freedom, education, self-government; and more.

Thomas Jefferson: Man of the Millennium: Website and CD-ROM presentation

introduction to Jefferson's legacy with interactive Evolution of Liberty timeline and more.  

The views of two Founding Fathers on the pivotal events that shaped American and world history — and their own:  Howard Ginsberg's stageplay, Jefferson & Adams.

play about the turbulent 50-year friendship told through the correspondence of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and his wife, Abigail. Contact us to find out where to see it and when-or if you would like to suggest a venue. Played to sold-out houses and standing ovations in Colonial Williamsburg.  Admission charged.

For more information on our Educational Outreach Programs,
contact Wendy Leeds.


The Jefferson Legacy Foundation helps people of all ages to learn about Thomas Jefferson, the early republic, the American Revolution, founding principles, civic participation, Jefferson's role in Vermont statehood, and more. We conduct outreach on the internet, in the garden, on the stage, in museums, at the library, and in the schools. 

Thomas Jefferson’s Legacy to American Education

Jefferson was the prophet of the American faith in the powers of education to secure the freedom and the happiness of the people.  As early as 1778, in his Virginia Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, Jefferson set forth a comprehensive plan of public education broadly based in primary schools, rising as in a pyramid through secondary schools, with a state university at the apex.  The dual mission was, first, “to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large,” and second, to ensure that “those persons whom nature hath endowed with genius and virtue” — Jefferson’s “natural aristocracy” — should be educated to the limits of their abilities in order the better to serve the mass of citizens.

Quite beyond its practical benefits to the individual, education at all levels had distinctly moral, social, and civic purposes.  It should cultivate virtue, teach the obligations of individuals to each other, and, above all, raise up the informed and responsible citizens a democratic government required.  Regrettably, Jefferson’s plan never came to fruition in Virginia; and although his influence was felt in other states, he finally had to be satisfied with the achievement of the state university — the apex of the pyramid without the foundation in the schools.

Jefferson’s faith in democracy was, at bottom, a faith in education.  Believing, as he said, “that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty,” it was essential that they should be educated to a certain degree and prepared to take part in public affairs; moreover, government should be structured in ways that invited widespread citizen participation.  Empowerment of the people depended upon education.  It was, therefore, a paramount responsibility of democratic government.  Tax-supported public education assumed common schools shaping a common citizenship and a common culture.

After his retirement as President, Jefferson preached that the future of democracy hung from two hooks: first, general education to enable every citizen to judge for himself how best to secure freedom and happiness, and second, the establishment everywhere of “little republics,” which he called “wards,” and compared to New England town meetings, to encourage due participation in public affairs.  The wards should be responsible for the public schools.  Jefferson distrusted concentrated power.

“What,” he asked, “has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating of all cares in one body.” Where power is dispersed, and common schooling is the rule, every citizen may come to identify his own interest with the interests of the whole.  With impassioned eloquence, Jefferson declared: “Where every man … feels he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day; where there shall not be a man in the State who will not be a member of some one of its councils, great or small, he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his powers be wrested from him by a Caesar or Bonaparte.”

If Jefferson was right, the health, indeed the salvation, of American democracy depends upon the making of informed, responsible, and participating citizens.   Civic education, therefore, ought to be a central theme in the conduct and curriculum of schools.  This includes many things, from the integration of the children of a pluralistic society in a shared culture to thorough instruction in the history and workings of American democracy.

In recent years, the achievement of scientific, mathematical, and cultural literacy have been set forth as key goals of K-12 education.  Civic literacy, however, has been neglected.  Yet in the vision of Thomas Jefferson — the vision as well of Horace Mann and John Dewey among eminent American educators — civic literacy is fundamental, morally, socially, politically.  By restoring the iron thread of civic learning and civic purpose in our schools, we help to restore faith in American ideals and institutions. The philosopher Santayana once remarked that in America “the common citizen must be something of a saint and something of a hero.”  There is a Jeffersonian ring to that.  It encapsulates a worthy idea.

Quoted from a letter to American educators from Merrill D. Peterson, Chairman of The Thomas Jefferson Commemoration Commission.

The Jefferson Legacy Foundation
Town Office Building, P.O. Box 76
Ripton, Vermont 05766
Phone 802-388-7676 Fax: 802-388-1776

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Jamie Wyeth.
 Used with permission of the artist. Copyright © Jamie Wyeth