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UW-Eau Claire History Faculty Secure $1.5 Million Grant

RELEASED: Oct. 11, 2005

EAU CLAIRE — Hundreds of teachers and thousands of school children throughout Wisconsin will benefit from a $1.5 million federal grant awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire history department, a consortium of eight CESA offices, the Chippewa Valley Museum and the UW-Eau Claire's Center for History Teaching and Learning.

"We are absolutely thrilled," Dr. Thomas Miller, chair of the history department, said of the grant from the U.S. Department of Education. "With this award, the history department has secured nearly $4 million in federal grants in the last four years. That's an incredible amount of federal money to bring back to the state of Wisconsin."

Securing the grant dollars is particularly rewarding because the funds help enhance the teaching and learning of history in public schools throughout the state, said Dr. Patricia Turner, associate professor of history at UW-Eau Claire.

"There are exceptional history teachers in schools all over Wisconsin," Turner said. "But school districts — particularly those in rural areas — don't have the money to support professional development that helps teachers learn to teach history more creatively and effectively. With the grant dollars, we can help provide those opportunities. And their students will benefit greatly."

The $1.5 million grant will support a program titled "Making Americans, Making America: Community, Citizenship, and the Constitution." Like other UW-Eau Claire history programs supported in recent years by U.S. Department of Education grants, the program will help teachers improve how they teach history to elementary, middle and high school students.

"It's an extraordinary collaborative venture," said Dr. Oscar Chamberlain, the project director and a member of the history department. "We'll have 70 teachers from eight CESAs, which represent more than 200 school districts throughout rural Wisconsin. They will earn up to 15 graduate credits by participating in three two-week summer institutes with UW-Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley Museum.

"Each of the eight CESAs will host regional workshops during the academic year. The Center for Teaching and Learning will provide resources and guidance for the teachers in creating workshops and building on what they learned in the program. And CESA 10 will be the fiscal agent for the grant."

The summer institute topics will include "Encounter in the Great Lakes: Politics and Sovereignty in Native/White Relations from the Fur Trade to the Present, "European Immigration into Wisconsin, 1820-1925" and "20th Century Arrivals."

"In each summer institute we'll look at how the interactions between the newcomers and established people makes and remakes this part of America and the people within it from the first encounter to today," Chamberlain said. "An essential part of that process is the relation of the people to the constitution, to the nation and to the changing nature of American citizenship."

The Chippewa Valley Museum will play an important role in the "Making Americans, Making America" project, helping teachers learn to identify and interpret primary sources in their own districts.

"Museum professionals will help teachers learn strategies for using hands-on approaches to teach history, an approach that's similar to what's done in many science classrooms," Turner said. "Research shows that history is best learned when students apply their knowledge outside of the classroom so we want to help teachers move from textbooks to project-based teaching."

Teachers enrolled in the program will learn how to organize graduate-level workshops, which they will deliver to another 400 teachers across the state each year. "By training them to lead workshops in their districts, we can reach even more teachers and students," Turner said.

The strategy is similar to one used in previous history teaching initiatives funded with federal grant monies, including the "Learning by Doing " programs, which were funded in 2002 and 2004 with two $1 million grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

"The 'Learning by Doing' programs are ongoing so we haven't done a final assessment to determine the program's impact," said Dr. John Mann, assistant professor of history, who wrote the most recent grant proposal with Chamberlain and Turner. "But it's getting easier to recruit teachers, which we think is because those involved are saying positive things about it. Teachers hear about the opportunities and they want to be a part of it."

A majority of the $1.5 million grant will support the 70 teachers who will enroll in the "Making Americans, Making America" program. The teachers can earn 15 graduate credits (at no cost) by completing the program. The grant will cover tuition and other expenses.

Another $170,000 of the grant will support UW-Eau Claire's Center for History Teaching and Learning. The Center is a collaborative effort between the history department and the College of Education and Human Sciences to help meet the professional development needs of K-12 teachers, said Dr. Kate Lang, an associate professor of history who co-directs the center with Dr. Roger Tlusty, professor of foundations of education.

Since its creation in 2001, the Center — the only one of its kind in the UW System — has received significant grant dollars to support public programs and teacher education programs. It has been a full partner in the three programs funded by U.S. Department of Education grants.

"We've secured funds for programs but not for administrative support," Lang said, noting that faculty opted to put the Center's resources into teaching. "The Center has gotten so big and is doing so much programming that we now need administrative support. This grant will provide that support, which will help us move the Center forward in a more organized way."

The collaborative nature of the grant program reflects a commitment by the Center and the history and education faculty to form partnerships with K-12 teachers, the museum and CESAs throughout Wisconsin, Tlusty said, adding that partnerships among those groups are unusual but increasingly important given changes in state and federal education requirements.

New state legislation — known as PI 34 — changed how teacher education programs are evaluated and changed requirements for licensing teachers, Tlusty said. It makes teachers more accountable, emphasizes assessment and requires teacher education programs to work closely with PK-12 educators. The grant proposal addresses all of those issues, he said.

"The collaboration emphasis of the programs has long-term implications for fundraising, recruitment, programming and professional development," Tlusty said. "The partnerships allow us to accomplish more than we could do individually. The strength of our partnerships and the existence of a Center for History, Teaching and Learning distinguish us from other institutions."

The partnerships benefit UW-Eau Claire education students because they will student teach in classrooms with teachers who use the innovative teaching strategies and have an appreciation for the partnership model, Tlusty said.

"When teachers teach in different ways and expand their knowledge base, they become models for our students," Tlusty said. "When students get their own classrooms, they'll use the strategies they observed as student teachers. So in addition to meeting the needs of current teachers, these programs will help shape how history is taught in the future."

The history department's success in obtaining nearly $4 million in grant dollars in recent years is an example of faculty aggressively pursuing outside funding to support initiatives that they believe will greatly benefit the region and state, Miller said.

"The 'Making Americans, Making America' program is an example of the Wisconsin Idea in action," Miller said. "It supports the idea that the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state."

For more information about the "Making Americans, Making America" program, contact Dr. Oscar Chamberlain at (715) 836-5501 or chambeob@uwec.edu.

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JB

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