August 2, 2006 --
The evolution and growth of democracy in America has deep roots in Virginia.
Ideas of democracy, civil liberties and equality were nurtured at the colony
of Jamestown, in the homes of our Founding Fathers at Montpelier and Monticello
as well as during the Virginia Civil Rights Movement in Virginia.
Thanks to a $1 million award from the U.S. Department of Education’s
Teaching American History Grant Program, teachers in Charlottesville and
four surrounding counties will have an opportunity to explore ways to teach
the history of this legacy in a program designed to enhance teaching American
history in public schools. The grant will fund “The Virginia Experiment:
Growing Seeds of Democracy in Four Hundred Years of American History,” a
three-year project designed to provide resources and training for teachers
to gain a deeper understanding of the evolution and growth of democracy
in America using new skills and primary resources.
The University of Virginia’s Center for Liberal Arts, Center for
Technology and Teacher Education, Miller Center of Public Affairs and Virginia
Center for Digital History are partnering with the City of Charlottesville,
and the counties of Albemarle, Greene, Madison and Orange, in the project,
which will introduce teachers to content and research to increase their
knowledge of American history and improve the quality of instruction, with
the goal of increasing student achievement.
The series of offerings made possible by the grant will address issues
of teacher retention, leadership and help further careers beyond the teaching
practice, said Andy Mink, director of outreach and K-12 education at VCDH.
Approximately 70 local teachers of American history in grades four, five,
six, seven and 11, will be able to partake in some aspect of the project
over the span of the grant.
This program provides a catalyst to schools to transform the way history is taught using primary sources and technology, said Glen Bull, co-director of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education at the Curry School of Education. "Web-based archives of primary materials are readily available to scholars and already have changed research on the university level. Now the world is changing inside K-12 schools in terms of accessing information. Students will have an opportunity to learn history in a deeper and more personal way that is less abstract and more understandable."
“In each offering we will draw explicit parallels between the role of local
and state events, people and places to foster a deeper understanding of
the evolution of traditional democratic ideals,” Mink said. “Participants
can take part in any or all of the offerings.”
This program provides a catalyst to schools to transform the way history
is taught using primary sources and technology, said Glen Bull, co-director
of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education. “Web-based archives
of primary materials are readily available to scholars and already have
changed research on the university level. Now the world is changing inside
K-12 schools in terms of accessing information. Students will have an opportunity
to learn history in a deeper and more personal way that is less abstract
and more understandable.”
During each year of the project, an annual series of eight lectures by
world-renowned historians, experts from 17 major universities, will speak
on a wide range of topics, at local historical and historical-related sites.
This year’s lecture series will be hosted by U.Va.’s Albert
and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Miller Center of Public
Affairs and VCDH, as well as by Montpelier and Monticello.
Also, each year 30 participants will have an opportunity to attend a multi-day
institute on teaching strategies. In the first year, the Polis Center at
Indiana University-Purdue University, one of the project’s partners,
will send experts to VCDH to lead this portion of the program.
“The Polis Center’s expertise lies in using GIS [Geographic Information
Systems] technology and methodology in teaching American history,” Mink
said. “Participants will learn to make maps and geography come alive
in the teaching and interpretation of history.”
A week-long summer immersion component is designed to enhance professional
development, as well as to maximize teacher interest, participation and
learning to improve the teaching of history. In each of the three years
of the grant, teachers will gain hands-on experience in the field to develop
a deeper understanding of key historical topics related to the three areas
of history that are the focus of the program.
In the first year, participants will explore the birth of the nation, focusing
on Jamestown, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2007. Their
time will be divided between hands-on experiences at Jamestown and work
with the Virtual Jamestown project (www.virtualjamestown.org/), an online
resource at the VCDH.
Those who choose the second year will focus on the Constitution and the
growth of the nation. This session will be hosted by the Center for the
Constitution at Montpelier.
During the third year, participants will focus on the Civil Rights Movement.
Fieldwork in Danville, the site of some of the most violent events of the
Civil Rights Movement in Virginia, and the exploration of a unique U.Va.
Web-based archive at VCDH — the Civil Rights Television News Archive,
1950-1970 (www.vcdh.virginia.edu/civilrightstv) — will be invaluable
primary sources for research.
Each year, 10 teachers — two selected by each of the school divisions
in the participating counties — will be teaching fellows. They will
be introduced to leadership training and will become curriculum developers.
Fellows will delve deeper into content in order to research, create and
implement learning modules that focus on classroom application, which will
be made available to share with colleagues. These teachers will come back
as master-teachers the second year.
The Virginia Experiment: Growing Seeds of Democracy in Four Hundred Years
of American History” is modeled after an already very successful
Identity, Legacy: Democracy in American History Education.” This
three-year program benefits teachers in the Roanoke area and is also funded
by the Department of Education and is a partnership with the Virginia Center
for Digital History and Roanoke Schools.
Partners in the ‘Virginia Experiment’ project are: the City
of Charlottesville and public schools in the counties of Albemarle, Greene,
Madison and Orange; U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, Center
for Liberal Arts, Center for Technology and Teacher Education, Miller Center
of Public Affairs and Virginia Center for Digital History; Polis Center
at Indiana University-Purdue University; Center for Constitution at James
Madison’s Montpelier; Monticello Foundation; Virginia Council on
Indians; Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; Virginia Historical Society;
Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History; Eastern Shore of Virginia Public
Library; Library of Congress; and Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.
For more information contact Andy Mink, director of outreach and education
at the Virginia Center for Digital History, at (434) 924-7834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.