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U.S. Department of Education
Awards UW-Eau Claire $1 Million
To Train History Teachers
MAILED: Oct. 4, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — Fifty elementary and secondary teachers from 30 school districts in central 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 the Chippewa Valley Museum.
The “Learning by Doing: Public History in the Classroom” program will allow 50 teachers to receive certificates in public history, earn up to 15 graduate credits (at no cost to the teachers), 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 wonderful history teachers in our elementary and secondary schools but there has been no money for professional development for those teachers,” said Dr. Patricia Turner, associate professor of history and co-director of the program. “This program will appeal to teachers who are enthusiastic about what they teach and excited about new opportunities in their classrooms.”
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 the general public, using venues such as museums or community displays and events.
Twenty-five teachers will be awarded fellowships and accepted into the program in spring 2003, with another 25 joining in spring 2004. During the program, teachers will organize study groups in their districts to educate other teachers, which means the program will reach nearly 225 teachers — or almost half the history teachers in CESA 10’s 30-district region, Turner said.
“The grant could not have come at a more timely period for our schools,” said Terry Olson, CESA 10 administrator. “In light of all the issues surrounding Sept. 11, I believe now more than ever our schools need to focus on teaching American history … It comes at a time when most schools are struggling with budget cuts and declining financial resources.”
“This is another example of UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to providing educational opportunities that meet regional and state needs,” said Provost Ronald Satz. “It’s also a testament to the strong relationships that exist among the university, local schools and community.”
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 proven 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 will greatly improve American history education,” Turner said.
Research shows history is best learned when students apply their knowledge outside the classroom, Turner said of the program’s emphasis on helping teachers move from textbook-based teaching to project-based approaches. As part of 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.
Teachers in the program also will complete an 80-hour internship at the Chippewa Valley Museum. They’ll work on special projects for the museum’s new “Country Places” exhibit, which focuses on the study of farm and rural life as it relates to family and community.
“The internships will be intellectually interesting but also give teachers experience with real projects, and they’ll learn how a museum operates,” said Susan McLeod, museum director. “I’m excited to be a part of this because it focuses on public history and teacher education.”
At least one teacher from every CESA 10 school district will be awarded a fellowship in the program, Turner said, adding the grant covers all program costs, including tuition, books and travel.
For more information about the “Learning by Doing” program, contact Turner at (715) 836-3369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: October 24, 2002