University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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UW-Eau Claire Faculty Receive $1 Million Grant to Help
Educate Elementary and Secondary History Teachers


 MAILED:  June 30, 2004

EAU CLAIRE - More than 200 elementary and secondary teachers from 39 school districts in northern and western Wisconsin will learn new ways to teach American history thanks to a $1 million federal grant awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire history department, in collaboration with CESA 10 and 11 and the Chippewa Valley Museum.

The "Learning by Doing: Public History in the Classroom" program enables teachers to earn certificates in public history, earn up to 15 graduate credits (at no cost), and bring new skills and resources to students and colleagues in their districts. It's possible because of a three-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

"There are many excellent history teachers in our schools but there is no money for professional development for those teachers," said Dr. Patricia Turner, associate professor of history at UW-Eau Claire and project director. "This program is for teachers who want to teach more creatively and effectively, giving their students a better understanding of American history."

The program is an extension of the "Learning by Doing" program that UW-Eau Claire launched in 2002, also with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. That program is making it possible for 30-plus teachers from CESA 10 school districts to earn certificates in public history, earn graduate credits and bring new resources into their classrooms and districts, said Dr. John Mann, visiting assistant professor of history.

"The teachers who are participating have organized study groups in their districts to help educate other teachers about new strategies and resources for teaching American history," Mann said. "The program is currently reaching nearly 150 history teachers in the region."

The "Learning by Doing" program is the first graduate public history certificate program in the United States designed for elementary and secondary education teachers, Turner said. Public history, a growing sub-discipline offered at more than 100 U.S. universities and colleges - including UW-Eau Claire - focuses on the public dissemination of historical knowledge. Public historians bring history to public audiences, using venues such as museums or community displays and events.

The $2 million in grant dollars brought to western Wisconsin by this program in the last two years is an example of UW-Eau Claire faculty aggressively pursuing outside funding to support innovative programs that will help the region and state, said interim Provost Steve Tallant. "This is exactly the kind of thing a dynamic, interactive public regional university should be doing," Tallant said.

The two-year program will include content-based courses in American history as well as hands-on learning opportunities for the teachers, Turner said. Teachers will leave the program with a better understanding of American history and with strategies for using hands-on approaches to teach history, similar to what is done in many science classrooms, she said.

"By helping teachers become skilled practitioners of public history, or professional historians, we are greatly improving American history education," Turner said.

The most recent grant will allow another 50 teachers to join the program, Mann said. With the study groups they will form, the program could reach two-thirds of 310 history teachers in CESA 11's 39-district region, he said, noting the district is mostly rural with many small districts.

To make it easier to participate in the program, classes and workshops will be held in Turtle Lake. UW-Eau Claire will host a three-week summer institute for the teachers. And teachers will again work on projects at the Chippewa Valley Museum.

The 2004 grant included an innovative component that will help UW-Eau Claire and the U.S. Department of Education better assess the effectiveness of the program, Turner said.

"The assessment component will help us demonstrate that the program is making a measurable difference in the classroom," Turner said. "We'll test students before and after their teachers have participated. We'll look for evidence that students learn history better when they see connections between historical events and their families, their lives and their communities."

Research shows history is best learned when students apply their knowledge outside the classroom, Turner said of the emphasis on helping teachers move from textbook-based teaching to project-based approaches. During the program, teachers will work with their students to create community-based history projects to be presented in their communities. "This enhances learning and helps build strong ties between schools and communities," she said, adding that teachers also will complete an 80-hour practicum at the Chippewa Valley Museum.

"This program is another excellent example of UW-Eau Claire's commitment to offering programs and activities that benefit our regional and state," said Tallant. "It's also a testament to the strong relationships that exist among UW-Eau Claire, area schools, non-profit organizations and communities."

For more information about the "Learning by Doing" program, contact Turner at (715) 836-3369 or turnerpr@uwec.edu or Mann at (715) 836-5850 or mannjw@uwec.edu.

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JB

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
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Updated: June 30, 2004