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U.Va.’s Virginia Center For Digital History Partners With Roanoke City Schools In  $1 Million Department Of Education Grant  

November 17, 2005 -- Questions of how major events in American history shaped the world we live in today may be too big for many K-12 students to tackle. But relating that history to what was happening in their communities during a specific time period will have a far more lasting influence on students than simply memorizing facts and dates.

The rich history of the Civil Rights Era and Massive Resistance in Virginia played a large role in the local history of Southwest Virginia. If a student learns about that local history and its relation to what simultaneously was going on throughout the United States, then goes home and asks his grandparents about what was happening, he or she has a more direct link with the events. In those cases the history becomes more meaningful and powerful, said Andy Mink, director of outreach and K-12 education at the Virginia Center for Digital History. 

To help teachers in the Roanoke area explore fresh and creative ways to teach history using new skills and primary resources, the University of Virginia’s Virginia Center for Digital History is partnering with Roanoke City Schools in a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching American History Grant Program. The grant will allow professional development for teachers in Floyd County, Roanoke City and County and Salem City.

The three-year grant will fund “Perspectives, Identity, Legacy: Democracy in American History Education,” a collaborative project with the local school systems, U.Va. and Virginia Tech. The project will expose teachers to content and research to increase their knowledge of American history and improve the quality of instruction, thereby increasing student achievement.

“The wonderful thing about this grant is that it focuses specifically on American history,” Mink said.

The three segments of the project will enroll 60 to 80 history teachers from approximately 40 schools, each of whom teach some aspect of American history in grades four, five, six, seven and 11, the years covered by the American history curriculum. 

The first phase begins in January 2006. Teachers will begin by attending a five-session lecture series during the semester. This segment covers American history from the pre-colonial period to the present. 

In the fall 2006 semester, participants will take an in-depth graduate-level course in an area of their choice. The courses will be offered in partnership with the Virginia Tech graduate program.

Throughout the three-year program participants will work with more than 40 scholars and historians, all experts in their fields, from U.Va., Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia at Wise, Radford College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Longwood College, the University of Nebraska and Georgia State University.

During the final phase of the program participants will choose between two summer immersion experiences where they will use primary sources from U.Va. collections to develop a piece of digital scholarship that they can take back and share in their classrooms.

“We want them to be students again and by that, affect their teaching,” Mink said.

As primary source material for their projects, they will have access to unique U.Va archives: Television News of the Civil Rights Era, 1950-1970 (, part of the Virginia Center for Digital History’s extensive digital archive; and and, both at the Miller Center of Public Affairs.

The Web-based Civil Rights archive contains scripts and more than 400 hours of original film of Civil Rights events preserved by two local television stations in Southwest Virginia — WDBJ (CBS) Roanoke and WSLS (NBC) Roanoke. The rare original footage includes film of school desegregation, public meetings, local debates over Civil Rights matters and interviews with citizens on both sides of the issues as well as speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Virginia governors. The material will allow participants to create a project that brings to life the events of the Civil Rights movement in the local community., an online resource that contains more than 60,000 pages on the presidency and executive branch of the government, and, the 1940 to 1973 secret recordings of six American presidents from both parties, will allow research of national politics during the Cold War and provide a deeper understanding of domestic issues at the time.     

Each participant will create a unique two- to three-minute digital history narrative project. At the end, participants will share their primary source scholarship, which will then be complied on a DVD for all to use in their K-12 classrooms. They will be encouraged to develop research questions based on the primary source material and provide links to sources that reflect today’s attitudes and perspectives on their research choices.

The goal of the program is to show the “wealth of possibilities they can bring to the classroom,” Mink said. “Twenty years ago they would just have written a paper.”

The Virginia Center for Digital History is affiliated with the College of Arts & Sciences and is supported by and located in Alderman Library. The center creates new forms of historical scholarship, provides public service and outreach and supports and encourages the use of digital technologies for scholarship and teaching.

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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