Emerging America Blog: A voice for quality history education

New Feature: Model Lesson Plans

June 15, 2014 by | Comments Off

Starting with this model lesson for Kindergarten, EmergingAmerica.org launches a new feature. Periodically, we will post exemplary inquiry-based lessons using primary sources from the Library of Congress. Contact us with feedback or your own drafts or suggestions for lesson ideas.”
Rich Cairn, Director, Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program of the Collaborative for Educational Services

What Do Trains Do? Kindergarten Lesson Plan

Kwame Webster, Collaborative for Educational Services

Demonstrations and Approaches

LibraryofCongress_Locomotive

Core academic subjects beyond reading and math often get pushed to the edges of the curriculum in the primary grades. Social studies and science can raise challenges because students typically lack contextual knowledge. Yet these subjects appeal strongly to some students. And even Kindergarten is not too early to begin scaffolding skills. The inquiry-based lesson, created by Jenn Murphy, New Hingham Regional Elementary School in Hampshire Regional School District: “What Do Trains Do?” equips teachers with tools to teach Kindergarteners to inquire about concepts of place and time, using often familiar imagery of trains and railroad tracks, and tying them to history, geography, and to their communities. In the lesson, maps of train tracks serve as a means to introduce the concept that primary source evidence can help us learn about our world and its past.

The robust collection of United State Railroad Maps from the Library of Congress spans 72 years from 1828 – 1900, allowing teachers to introduce aspects of time and history in the lesson. Most maps are quite detailed, allowing teachers to zoom in to students’ hometowns for recognition of place. Students learn to ask questions such as: Who made this map? What for? Why do we need trains? What do these maps tell us about trains? What do train tracks tell us about trains? The framework of the lesson connects Kindergarteners to higher levels of inquiry.

Using selections from the large body of engaging children’s books about trains, the lesson provides students with background information that feeds inquiry and content creation. A combination of fiction and nonfiction texts allow teachers to help students to ask and answer questions about trains based on the stories. A visual organizer helps students to answer questions about trains and railroad tracks function, location, and description (era; steam or electric powered). From that foundation, students then begin to construct maps to feature the railroad tracks in their community. Students will know where to add railroad tracks on their maps by asking: What do maps show and what don’t they show? What information should be included on maps?

This lesson provides a distinctive way to teach Social Studies standards to Kindergarteners that supports Common Core emphasis on primary sources and other informational texts. It also allows students to connect with their communities to engender personal scholarship.

The 2014 History Institute, which is a collaboration between the UMass Department of History and the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton. The History Institute brings scholars to K-12 teachers to discuss the historical significance of current events. The lectures are free and open to the public.

David Glassberg, “Learning from American Environmental History”
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30PM; Teacher Workshop: 6-7:00PM
Collaborative for Educational Services, 97 Hawley St, Northampton, MA

Listen to the Public Service Announcement:

Watch a video of the presentation:

Appy and Glassberg’s lectures were preceded by events earlier in the year by History Department faculty Mary Wilson and Audrey Altstadt. The videos of these lectures are available online.

More information:
http://www.umass.edu/history/research/history_institute.html
http://www.collaborative.org/events-and-courses/history-institutes

Link to Press Release.

The 2014 History Institute, which is a collaboration between the UMass Department of History and the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton. The History Institute brings scholars to K-12 teachers to discuss the historical significance of current events. The lectures are free and open to the public.

Professor Chris Appy, “Who We Are: The Vietnam War and the End of ‘American Exceptionalism’”
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30PM; Teacher Workshop: 6-7:00PM
Collaborative for Educational Services, 97 Hawley St, Northampton, MA

Listen to the Public Service Announcement:

Watch a video of the presentation:

Appy and Glassberg’s lectures were preceded by events earlier in the year by History Department faculty Mary Wilson and Audrey Altstadt. The videos of these lectures are available online.

More information:
http://www.umass.edu/history/research/history_institute.html
http://www.collaborative.org/events-and-courses/history-institutes

Link to Press Release.

Download the Press Release .pdf on the Spring 2014 History Institute:

  • Chris Appy speaks on Who We Are: The Vietnam War and the End of American Exceptionalism
  • David Glassberg speaks on Learning from American Environmental History

UMass Professors and K-12 Teachers Collaborate to Connect Past and Present, Bringing Contemporary Events into Local Classrooms

Most people assume that history is over. After all, it’s the past. Not so, says the UMass Amherst History Department and the Northampton-based non-profit, Collaborative for Educational Services. Together, these organizations are hosting a year-long “History Institute” for local K-12 teachers organized around understanding and teaching about contemporary events in historical context. The events have covered topics including the conflict in Syria, climate change, U.S. foreign policy, and the conflict between human rights and energy policies.

On March 27, UMass History Professor Chris Appy will explore American exceptionalism, the idea that the U.S. is unrivaled not only in its resources, wealth, and military might, but in its values and institutions, its rights and opportunities. It is the idea that unlike other powerful nations, the U.S. is always a force for good in the world. Professor Appy’s talk will explore how the Vietnam War posed fundamental challenges to the faith in American exceptionalism, a core tenant of American identity since the 17th century. He will also explore the post-Vietnam efforts to revive it.

Chris Appy brings a depth of insight and passion to the study of the American War in Vietnam and post-World War II America that fully engages teachers and the public alike. He brings a fresh and textured approach to a much-discussed topic,” says Rich Cairn, Director of the Emerging America Program at the Collaborative.

On May 8, UMass History Professor David Glassberg will explore themes in American environmental history. Glassberg will show how studying environmental history offers middle and high school students insights into the ways that past generations of Americans imagined and shaped the land, as well as helps students to understand the roots of the current environmental crises that they are inheriting. Glassberg is a nationally prominent public historian with decades of experience with environmental issues, both as a historian and as a politically active member of the Pioneer Valley community.

Teachers appreciate Glassberg’s grounding in global and local thought and issues. He applies a distinctive twist to history that helps his listeners to make sense of confusing and contradictory ideas,” adds Cairn.

Following both talks, teachers, scholars and teacher-educators from the Collaborative will work together to develop strategies for applying the content to the classroom.

This series crosses the divide between K-12 teachers and university historians.

“Teachers and faculty have each commented on the excitement generated by bringing both groups together. Teachers have said how inspiring it has been to have access to expert scholars and engaging primary sources, while faculty have expressed their pleasure at seeing the history that they work with every day being brought into K-12 classrooms for students in such meaningful ways,” explains Suzanne Judson-Whitehouse, Assistant Director of the Emerging America Program.

The UMass History Department has hosted different forms of “The History Institute” for two decades.

This Institute is only the tip of the iceberg, most, if not all, of our faculty conduct public scholarship, from museum exhibits to oral history projects to articles written for public audiences, and they have been doing so for decades. We are one of very few history departments in the nation with an office dedicated to outreach and community engagement, and our Public History Program is top notch.” says History Department Outreach Director Dr. Jessica Johnson.

The theme of this year’s History Institute emerged from the Department’s popular new blog, Past@Present, in which faculty and graduate students explore contemporary events in historical perspective. These initiatives build on a growing movement within the historical profession and universities in general in general to conduct scholarship that is relevant to present-day social struggles, bringing humanities scholarship to bear on our nation’s and world’s most pressing problems.

Schedule of Events:

Professor Chris Appy, “Who We Are: The Vietnam War and the End of ‘American Exceptionalism’”
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30PM; Teacher Workshop: 6-7:00PM
Collaborative for Educational Services, 97 Hawley St, Northampton, MA

David Glassberg, “Learning from American Environmental History”
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Public Lecture: 4:30-5:30PM; Teacher Workshop: 6-7:00PM
Collaborative for Educational Services, 97 Hawley St, Northampton, MA

Appy and Glassberg’s lectures were preceded by events earlier in the year by History Department faculty Mary Wilson and Audrey Altstadt. The videos of these lectures are available online.

More information:
http://www.umass.edu/history/research/history_institute.html
http://www.collaborative.org/events-and-courses/history-institutes

Winning Strategies African-American Union Soldier 1863
Winning Strategies Boston Massacre 1776

Exploring Emerging America’s Windows on History Program

Since 2006, Emerging America’s Windows on History program has mobilized more than 30 research teams of K-12 students with their teachers and in partnership with historical societies, museums, town and college libraries, expert individuals, and other very local resources. Students learn to think historically as they track down primary sources to tell the story of their communities and their place in the world. This is the sixth in our series of close-ups on these sites.

Cross-Grade Immigration Project in Easthampton
By Rebecca Rideout

In a multidisciplinary, multi-school teaching approach, Easthampton teachers Ryan Pickard and Jared Orne combined art history, culinary techniques, arts and craft projects, and oral history to explore the immigration stories of this industrial mill town in their unit entitled Immigration in our Community

Ms. Pickard’s fourth graders and Mr. Orne’s tenth grade US History II students started by studying the fundamentals of immigration history: What pushed people to leave their country? What pulled them to America? What did they bring with them? How did they adapt in the new environment? Students created displays, showing what immigrants from different countries valued and brought to America. Then both classes brought their work to a delicious community event: a cultural potluck. Families, including first generation immigrants, brought a wide range of foods native to their homelands. The offerings included French meat pie, shepard’s pie, flan, roasted rabbit, and even Ecuadorian stuffed guinea pig.

The fourth grade class visited the Smith College Museum of Art, where Smith students and museum staff had designed a personalized tour of their collection that focused on immigration. Students were given time to write about and interpret a specific painting of an immigrant woman.

The students drafted letters to loved ones in which they imagined the experience of a cross-oceanic voyage. The results brought depth and emotion to their understanding of the struggles faced by early immigrants, as found in this edited excerpt:

Dear Aunt Ellis,
I miss you terribly. I wish you had come with us. I feel lonely without you, and cold without your warm hugs.
I didn’t bring enough money, so they sent me to steerage. It smells like old potatoes down here. Plus, the food is awful!
Mom and dad told me that it will be worth it when we get to America. I hope so.
Sincerely,
Amber, your loving niece

Ms. Pickard’s fourth graders also expanded their research at Northampton’s Forbes library, where a local historian and reference librarian helped students inspect primary sources. The class studied maps, searched for their family name in town documents, and perused a 1900 census report to discover the types of jobs immigrants and residents might have had. Important questions arose that led to more research, such as “Why did they stop using the railroads?” “What used to be in the Eastworks mill building?” and “Who named all the streets in Easthampton?”

To further understand the hardships that early immigrants faced, both the fourth and tenth grade classes were asked to pack belongings that they would bring with them for a journey to a new country. Fourth graders created and packed “culture boxes” that they decorated with emblems of their own countries of heritage. This activity encouraged students to interview their parents about their family’s heritage; moreover, students learned about the diverse backgrounds of their classmates’ families, whether they had recently immigrated or had been Easthampton residents for centuries.

High school students packed a suitcase as if embarking on a voyage – and then traveled to the elementary school, where they shared their chosen objects with their fourth grade buddies. “The assignment was to think about what you would bring if you moved to a new country and could only bring one suitcase, to understand what it must have been like to leave their home and start a new life,” explains teacher Jared Orne. When the two classes got together, the two age groups learned a lot from each other. “The purpose was to compare what is important to a fourth and tenth grader.”

Mr. Orne’s tenth graders also conducted oral histories with several teenage ELL (English Language Learners) program members. The questions, written by students, helped them understand why families from all over the planet relocate to Easthampton, and how it feels to be a new resident of the United States.

Overall, two age groups learned about the variety of reasons that immigrants have moved to Easthampton through a variety of non-traditional learning experiences. Teachers advise that although it was challenging to fit a longer unit like this into the school year, students got more out of it than a basic textbook-oriented course and encourage other teachers to work with their school to create similarly engaging programs.

“I learned that people get to America many ways and for many different reasons, one being to have a better life than they had where they came from.”

“I thought it was cool to work with the fourth graders. This project helped me learn what it was really like to make the decision to immigrate.”

Collaborations between the Easthampton High School, Maple Elementary School, Smith College Museum of Art, Forbes Library, and the ELL Program at Easthampton High School made this project possible.

Balancing Three Vital Components in Professional Development

Triangle shows components of professional development.

The Common Core will be a game-changer in the teaching of content and in the skills of verbal-oral and visual literacy, including writing. Teaching ELA teachers should incorporate thinking about science, history, and other disciplines as well as literature. At the same time, social studies and science teachers must convey not just content knowledge, but the skills to analyze texts, data, images – anything really – and to write well about them: explanations, descriptions, arguments, and research studies.




Every Emerging America workshop therefore connects three components:

  1. Critical Thinking about Historical Content – which could be on any topic from patterns of Native American settlement or the Emancipation Proclamation to the history and science of flight.

  2. Practice in the analysis of a particular body of primary sources, including the very local (such as a series of studies of the local mills) to the national (featuring work with the 30 million items in the Library of Congress online collections).
  3. Focus on a small number of Common Core standards, usually one from reading and one from writing. Every workshop also helps teachers learn to match appropriate primary sources to each standard.

During each workshop, teachers practice multiple times with tools of analysis, featuring approaches from each of the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Stanford History Education Group. Teachers incorporate the three components in the writing of a lesson. In more substantial workshops, they teach the lesson, and then they bring student work and observations for discussion on how to improve instruction.

Topics, grade levels and subject areas, scholar interest, site, and other factors shift the balance of time, sources, and particular skills in any given workshop.

The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program (TPS) featured a profile on the work of Emerging America with TPS in Massachusetts.

April 14, 2013: Blogger Anthony Cody cites Rich Cairn’s article in the TPS Journal to give credence to his suggestion that students examine a controversial report on education in the District of Columbia under Michelle Rhee.

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/04/common_core_non-fiction_readin.html?cmp=ENL-EU-VIEWS2