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Wisconsin Teachers Wrap up First of Summer
History Institutes

RELEASED: June 23, 2006

Nick Hockings
Waswagoning founder Nick Hockings shows the teaching fellows traditional skills of the Lac du Flambeau tribe. (Contributed photo)

EAU CLAIRE — This week a group of thirty-four Wisconsin K-12 teachers will wrap up the first of three summer institutes in the program titled "Making Americans, Making America: Community, Citizenship and the Constitution." The ultimate goal of this program is to improve history teaching in rural Wisconsin schools by expanding Wisconsin teachers' knowledge of Wisconsin and American history and by helping them engage their students more fully by utilizing historical locations and resources in their own areas.

The program combines the stories of different ethnic groups in Wisconsin with the role of American citizenship and American constitutional history in the lives of these people. The program is funded by a Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education and is a partnership between eight CESAs, the UW-Eau Claire history department, the UW-Eau Claire Center for History Teaching and Learning, and the Chippewa Valley Museum.

This summer the teachers are studying Native Americans; next summer they will study European immigrants from about 1820-1920; and in the third summer they will focus on groups arriving in the 20th century. In each institute, the fellows spend half of their day at UW-Eau Claire, where Oscar Chamberlain, UW-Eau Claire history professor and director of the Making Americans Project, is supplying the background on American citizenship and constitutional history. This summer he is team teaching with Tony Gulig, a professor of history at UW-Whitewater and a UW-Eau Claire alumnus, whose expertise is Native American history.

The other half of their day, these teaching fellows are learning from Chippewa Valley Museum staff how to interpret historical materials. For this year’s institute, the goals are poster presentations on topics related to Native American History. One long term-goal for this part of “Making Americans” is for the fellows to identify and utilized materials in their own regions — materials that they can then use as the basis for classroom instruction.

Aside from improving their own classroom content, these teachers also will play an essential role in disseminating this knowledge to other teachers within their CESA districts (CESAs 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12). They will assist in planning and conducting workshops for other teachers in their CESA districts during the academic year with the content based on the work done in the summer institutes.

Teresa Shelton, who teaches fifth-grade in Spooner, said one of the best things about the class was all the new information she was getting. Although she has taught her students about Native American history before, she said she'd never had the opportunity to take a class with that specific focus. She admitted that her classroom project is quite ambitious.

"I'm working on a book I hope to have published," said Shelton.

Inspired by a text published by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, "Wisconsin History on Stage: Scripts for Grades 4-8," Shelton hopes to write plays that students could act out about a specific time in the history of each of five Wisconsin Indian tribes, as well as Reader's Theater presentations about a legend from each of these cultures. Reader's Theater is an increasingly popular technique that emphasizes text over dramatic action and has been described as "presenting with voices." Typically, sets and costumes are minimal, and participants read rather than memorize their parts.

Randy Kunsch, an eighth-grade teacher of American history and reading in Phillips, agreed that the class has been valuable.

"It's certainly been an eye-opener as to the different cultures found right here in our state," said Kunsch. "It's really called my attention to the fact that my students need to hear this information too."

Kunsch is planning to develop a power-point presentation to share what he's learned about the various tribes with his students. He also wants to enhance a cross-curriculum unit he and other teachers plan annually that focuses on the 1970's. He plans to incorporate information on the American Indian Movement's desire to reclaim Native American heritage from the destructive impact of boarding schools as well as other attempts at involuntary assimilation.

During the two weeks of the institute, the teaching fellows have also worked on some short-term, team projects they developed using a 1922 survey of the Lac du Flambeau reservation, which they visited as part of the summer institute. Those projects are on display at the Chippewa Valley Museum today, the last day of the institute.

For more information on the "Making Americans, Making America" project, contact Chamberlain at chambeob@uwec.edu or visit the MAMA web site, hosted by the UW-Eau Claire Center for History, Teaching and Learning.

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NW

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