The Education Innovator #6
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 February 14, 2005 • Number 6
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What's inside...
Bringing History Home Project, Washington County, Iowa
What's New
President Bush releases his 2006 budget; New York Public Library announces Black Migration project; the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will continue its summer professional development series; the St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable helps close the African American achievement gap; and a community organization in Harlem improves students' attendance records.
Innovations in the News
Connecticut districts receive Teaching American History (TAH) grant, plus information on American history, arts education, charter schools, choice, and teacher quality.

Bringing American History Home to Students and Teachers
Imagine a classroom filled with energetic elementary school students. They listen to a recording of President Theodore Roosevelt and pass around pictures of child laborers taken by photo-historian Jacob Riis in the early 1900s. They read about child labor laws and the 1901 Tenement House Act. For these students, American history is not just a page in a textbook; it is a real, interactive experience brought to them by their teacher as a result of participating in the Bringing History Home project.

Bringing History Home (BHH) is a kindergarten through sixth grade professional development project, which has resulted in a formal curriculum that is being used in classrooms in the state of Iowa. The project was designed and piloted in the Washington Community School District in partnership with the University of Iowa in 2001.

BHH teachers focus on traditional American history as a separate subject, not as part of a social studies curriculum. As students advance through the grades, their scope of history widens as they learn about the early centuries of America's development and analyze primary source documents such as the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The program utilizes the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to help its teachers and students examine records of the past. NARA provides worksheets that guide participants through the analysis of primary sources. These worksheets ask questions that lead students through the processes of looking closely at documents, making inferences, and synthesizing prior knowledge with new observations. As students progress through their grade levels, they learn how to use all of these processes with greater sophistication.

Teachers are trained in the BHH program through two workshops during two consecutive summers. The teachers work in grade-level groups to analyze primary sources, map historical events, and construct historical narratives. They discuss ways to adapt these processes for different types of learners. Historians and education specialists present at the workshops and provide support for the teachers. At the end of each workshop series, teachers join focus groups and discuss what they have learned. In addition to the workshops, teachers participate in month-long classroom projects twice a year and belong to a statewide network of history experts and advocates. In the final year of the training, teachers, mentors, historians, and education specialists gather at an Elementary History Education Conference.

In the pilot district of Washington County, BHH developed a curriculum, which has become the sole American history curriculum in the district. In 2003, the Iowa counties of Perry, Creston, and Maquoketa also adopted the Bringing History Home project. To ensure that there is consistency across the counties, many teachers in the pilot district are mentors to upcoming BHH teachers. The pilot teachers train new participants, present at BHH conferences, and provide ongoing support to their colleagues via email and during the program's two-day summer workshops. Pilot teachers have also created three new units that will be available on the program's website.

The program formally introduces kindergarten students to history by connecting the subject to their most immediate prior knowledge—themselves and their home. As the program's curriculum continues, students explore what daily life was like for children who lived years ago, where their ancestors lived before coming to the United States, and why they came.

For example, when they study the Industrial Revolution, children examine familiar businesses in their community and in the country and how these businesses at home contributed to the history of the nation. They also study history in the context of change, as when first grade children learn how their mail was delivered using horses and carriages and how this method has been improved by modern transportation and technology used by the United States Postal Service.

Elise Fillpot, director of Bringing History Home, states, "Whenever I do classroom observations, I am always overwhelmed by how much the children know. The way that the teachers teach history… makes the subject interesting and real."

When teachers use the BHH curriculum in their classrooms, students do not read a textbook. Instead, they study maps, write historical narratives, create timelines, and read children's literature that relates to a historical theme. From the very beginning of the program, children learn what "history" means, what history methodology is, and how primary sources are used to authenticate historical fact. In kindergarten, children collect artifacts from their history such as letters, photographs, and documents related to the past. Then they place their own "primary sources" in a box or bag that can house a history display, such as one seen in a museum.

Teachers use content and process goals from the BHH lessons in order to develop student assessments. These goals measure the transferable skills and historical understanding that children will take with them through their grade levels. Children are challenged to demonstrate their "content knowledge" of the historical event and their "process knowledge" of primary source analysis.

The University of Iowa collaborates closely with BHH in all counties, especially on evaluation. The University's Center for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) within its College of Education provides assistance with both formative and summative assessments. In addition to this collaboration, BHH is affiliated with the University of Northern Iowa, Indiana University, St. Ambrose University (IA), Iowa Public Television, and the Hometown Perry, Iowa Museum.

The Bringing History Home project is funded by two OII Teaching American History (TAH) grants. The Teaching American History grant program supports grants to promote the teaching of traditional American history as a separate academic subject and to support American history teacher professional development.

Resources: Note: The featured program is an example of one approach to teaching American history. The program is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

President Bush submitted a budget request for 2006 that builds on the success of the No Child Left Behind Act. (Feb. 7)

American History

For Black History Month, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library has created an educational website that focuses on Black migration over the last 400 years. The website gives free access to historical documents such as photographs, maps, and articles. The project also includes 100 reproducible lesson plans for teachers. (Feb. 7)

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will continue its series of professional development programs, "Landmarks of American History Workshops for School Teachers," in the summer of 2005. Landmarks Workshops are week-long residential programs that provide K-12 teachers the opportunity to participate in intensive study of major topics in American history at important historical sites around the country. Teachers receive a $500 stipend and teaching materials for their classrooms. The deadline to apply is March 15, 2005. (Feb. 8)

Parental Involvement

The St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable (BLR) has an online newsletter that highlights district events and resources for schools, teachers, and parents on closing the academic achievement gap. The BLR's mission is to improve the quality of life for African Americans in the St. Louis area and is organized around committees on education, economic development, healthcare, voter education, and social justice. BLR has a Parental Information and Resource Center grant from OII. (Feb. 8)

Parents of children suffering from asthma can breathe a sigh of relief in Central Harlem (NY). A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children participating in the Harlem Children's Zone Asthma Initiative were less likely to miss school because of asthma-related illnesses than they were before they enrolled in the program. In order to fight asthma, children and their parents receive medical, environmental, educational, and legal services. (Feb. 2)


Innovations in the News

American History
History teachers in Connecticut are excited about their new opportunity to learn how to bring lessons to life for their students. Fifty-two teachers from Plainville, East Hartford, West Hartford, Vernon, Bolton, and Manchester are participating in a three-year Teaching American History grant project sponsored by the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) and the U.S. Department of Education. [More-The Bristol Press] (Feb. 10)

American history teachers in Canton (MA) will explore the cultural links between the United States and the world by studying primary source materials with a program sponsored by a Teaching American History grant. Seminars for the winter and spring will include such topics as "Revolution-Era America in the Atlantic World" and "Foreign Influences on the Revolutionary War and on the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions." [More-Canton Journal] (Feb. 4)

A new Weymouth Public Schools' (MA) initiative delivers multi-faceted professional development to history teachers in the district through strong partnerships with the University of Massachusetts Boston and Adams Historical Park. The project, "Lest We Forget—The Teaching of American History" consists of a number of special components, including presentations by historians and authors, book clubs, teacher study teams, graduate level coursework, and summer institutes. Teachers can also earn graduate credits and receive scholarships. The district recently received an OII Teaching American History grant. [More-Weymouth News] (Jan. 26)

Arts Education
Teachers looking for new and innovative ways to incorporate arts into their curricula can find the information they need through workshops offered by the California State University San Marcos' Center ARTES, SUAVE (Socios Unidos para Artes via Educacion) at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, and the San Diego County Office of Education. The California Center for the Arts received an OII Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant in 2003. [More-North County Times] (Feb. 7)

Charter Schools
The charter school movement is appealing to more and more minority families in California cities. More than 300 of the state's 537 charter schools serve predominantly minority and low-income students. Recent Rand Corporation findings show that charter schools have twice the percentage of African American students than traditional public schools in the state. [More-Los Angeles Times] (Feb. 7) [free registration]

The New Mexico House Education Committee heard about state Representative Terry Marquardt's (R-Otero/Doña Ana) tax credit bill. The Income Tax Credit for School Choice Act (House Bill 233) provides a maximum $3,000 credit for parents who choose private or parochial school. A student's tuition could be claimed up to $3,000, which is the amount public schools receive per child annually. (For example, if tuition is $2,500, the maximum credit is $2,500.) [More-Alamogordo Daily News] (Feb. 11)

Teacher Quality
Governors across the country are calling for teachers to be compensated for improving their skills and student achievement. [More-Education Week] (Feb. 2) [free registration]

A Texas A&M University alternative teacher certification program places its candidates as paid interns in local school districts. The one-year program is designed to attract students who may already hold a bachelor's degree in a particular field. There are currently 29 interns who are employed with various Texas school districts. [More-Texarkana Gazette] (Jan. 30)


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Last Modified: 08/13/2009