As a high school history teacher gazes up at an enormous mural, he begins to plan an activity that engages his students in careful analysis of both the image and its historical context. Listening to a drum beat while she walks in the footsteps of a Civil War soldier, a fourth-grade teacher gains an appreciation for the power of music and of historic places. She learns new ways to incorporate multiple senses into her classroom, opening student minds through the sounds, smells, and tastes of the past.
Whether it takes place in a national museum, on a working seventeenth-century farm, or in a library or archive, professional development that allows teachers to explore history in person can be a powerful learning experience. But what are the components of good history and social studies workshops for teachers? What roles can cultural institutions, such as museums, libraries, archives, and historic sites, play in creating quality learning opportunities for educators? What strategies help teachers translate these experiences into classroom learning, inspiring students to think in new ways?
Students in Stacy Hoeflich’s fourth-grade classroom at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., don’t just learn American history, they live it through encounters with primary sources and historical reenactors, participation in “Colonial Day” fairs, field trips to historical sites, operas about historical figures such as George Mason and Thomas Jefferson that are written and performed by the students, and more. Ms. Hoeflich’s efforts were recognized last month by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, which awarded her the prestigious 2011 National History Teacher of the Year Award. Co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, HISTORY®, and Preserve America, the award was presented in a ceremony at the Frederick Douglass Academy in New York City and is accompanied by a $10,000 cash prize.
In proclaiming October as National Arts and Humanities Month, President Obama said the arts and humanities “speak to our condition and affirm our desire for something more and something better.” A new poster from the National History Clearinghouse, "How Do You Piece Together the History of the Civil War?,” employs images of objects such as a quilt, a map, some photographs, a haversack, and a receipt to deepen understanding of the Civil War and about how historians piece together the past.
This 24-by-36-inch poster features a collage of primary sources and related questions that get students thinking about how we know what we know about the past, as we do with all history, but especially in relation to our country’s most devastating conflict, the Civil War. The question, “How can geography impact a battle?,” accompanies a map of Gettysburg while a slave receipt prompts students to think about the laws, economics, and, most importantly, people involved in the institution of slavery.
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and the Teacher Quality program office would like to highlight some of the OII programs that support high-quality teacher preparation and professional development.