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The Power of Place: Landscapes as Historical Texts

A survey demonstrated that more than one-third of social studies teachers in Washington, D.C., have less than three years of experience. Each year, teachers will attend a summer institute at American University featuring two graduate-level courses: one in American history and the other in historical pedagogy. Throughout this institute, the teachers will be introduced to current historiography, public history in the form of archeology and exhibitions at historic sites, and a range of primary and secondary sources—from maps to material culture—that will be incorporated into lesson plans and curricular units. Each history content course will follow the same pattern: professors alternating lectures, field studies and discussions, while teachers collect video and documentary data for their curricular units. They also will attend a series of Saturday workshops. Eighty teachers will participate for three years with the possibility of a 2-year extension. The project will provide tangible connections to the past that can reveal social and cultural history through the built environment and memory studies. It will blend the content with visits to local historic sites, such as Mount Vernon, the Frederick Douglass House and the H Street Corridor. The teachers will discuss and adapt the substance and methods of academic and public historians' work to create robust learning environments, develop new strategies for engaging students in working with historic places and primary and secondary sources, develop techniques for integrating technology into curricular planning, and contextualize and integrate the district's instructional vision of the Teaching and Learning Framework into teachers' curricular units, which will be made available online.