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Defining America: Times of Crisis and Recovery

Defining America is a combined effort of two regional educational service agencies—one in northwestern Wisconsin and the other in northeastern Minnesota. Together, they serve 55 mainly rural districts plus several Native American schools and have a total of 10 schools in need of improvement. Project activities will provide opportunities for history teachers to work directly with master teachers, curriculum experts, and archivists. Face-to-face experiences will include 5-day summer colloquia and one and a half-day retreats and seminars of various lengths. Online activities will include creation of a Moodle site where project staff and participants can share ideas and practices and conduct online discussions. When project staff select the 40 teaching fellows, their priority will be on recruiting teachers from schools in need of improvement. The theme of Defining America is examining critical eras when, at the national level, the meaning of "America" was created or significantly redefined. History content will include the relevant national events and people, and will also make connections to local and Native American history. Teachers will learn to identify historical resources, incorporate historical thinking into teacher-created lesson plans and classroom activities, and use best practices in instruction. When teaching fellows complete their 3-year Defining America experience, they will have a pool of lesson plans to share with other teachers and will be a resource for colleagues in their districts to improve history instruction across all schools.