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History Matters

A needs assessment determined that most history teachers in these California districts lack basic knowledge of U.S. history. They also need strategies and tools to help them make the content relevant and compelling for students. Each year, this project will offer four content seminars, three book-study discussion sessions, a 3-day summer institute and a year-end culminating event featuring a distinguished historian. Annual field study experiences will include "doing history" in Los Angeles, Tidewater Virginia through the Revolutionary War, Illinois and Missouri from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, industrial change in New England, and civil rights in the South. Annually, 40 teachers will attend at least 75 percent of the activities and have the option of participating in multiple years. New participants will be recruited to replace teachers who do not continue. The project will explore traditional American history from multiple viewpoints, placing visual art, music and literature in a historical context to add dimension and diverse perspectives. The content of each project year will lead the teachers on a voyage of discovery, where they will use primary sources, become acquainted with well-known historical figures, and gain insights into the development and evolution of the meanings of freedom and "a more perfect union." They will learn to place key events in time, name and analyze founding documents, recognize themes and key concepts in their curricula, demonstrate and teach historical thinking skills, and generally display a more profound level of historical literacy. Many project products will be available on the Web, including teacher-created model lessons, training materials and evaluation tools.