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History Institute Educates Teachers
About Immigrants to Wisconsin

RELEASED: June 13, 2008

EAU CLAIRE — Forty-two Wisconsin K-12 teachers will participate June 16-27 in the last of three summer institutes designed to improve the teaching of American history.

The program "Making Americans, Making America: Community, Citizenship, and the Constitution" is funded by a Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education and is a partnership between eight Cooperative Educational Service Agency districts, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire history department and the Chippewa Valley Museum. Teachers who complete the three-year program earn 15 graduate credits in history at no cost to them; fellowships from the Department of Education grant cover the tuition costs.

MAMA uses the history of the varied peoples of Wisconsin to look at broader themes in American history, said program director Oscar Chamberlain, a member of the UW-Eau Claire history department. This year the focus is on groups that came to Wisconsin after War II, including foreign immigrants and refugees such as the Hmong, Somalis and Latinos, and domestic migrants, such as African-Americans and the Amish. In the first year of the program, 2006, MAMA fellows studied Native Americans in the region from European contact in the 1600s to the present. In 2007 they studied European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Part of this summer's institute will include a field trip organized by the Chippewa Valley Museum focusing on the impact of new groups on Wisconsin's agricultural community. The trip will include visits to a dairy farm that employs immigrant Mexican workers and to the Jennie-O Turkey Store plant in Barron, which over the past 30 years has employed Mexican, Hmong and Somali immigrants along with its majority of native-born Wisconsin workers. The field trip will conclude in Eau Claire, first at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, where MAMA fellows will talk to some of the vendors, followed by a visit to the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.

In the second week of the institute, participants will interview members of some of these new communities to get a more intimate understanding of the recent immigrants, their history and their impact on Wisconsin.

"By the end of the institute, teachers will have far greater expertise concerning recent immigration to Wisconsin and its impact on Wisconsins culture, the impact of federal legislation concerning immigration, the relationship between the Constitution and citizenship, and the relationships between immigrant groups and native-born Wisconsin residents," Chamberlain said.

Josh Bill, who has taught world history at Regis High School and teaches a class at Lakeland College, has participated in the MAMA program for the past two summers and is looking forward to this year's institute.

"I've really gotten to learn about how world events have impacted people in our area and I have been able to put aside some stereotypes," Bill said. "The institute really brings history alive and students benefit when I can do the same thing in the classroom."

Bill said he has particularly benefited from learning the history of the Hmong people's resettlement in the United States and from information about Native American treaty rights and history.

"Those are two distinct groups that get a lot of press in this area and which fit right in when I'm teaching about Vietnam and the settlement of the United States by European immigrants," he said.

Although this will be the last institute for teachers who began the MAMA program in 2006, the grant program does not end here, Chamberlain said. As in the two previous years, there will be one-credit workshops taught by MAMA staff and program fellows in regional locations throughout Wisconsin.

A fourth summer institute in June 2009 that would repeat the 2006 institute on Native Americans for a new audience of Wisconsin teachers is also being planned, Chamberlain said.

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KH

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