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Engaging Encounters in the American Experience

As it neared the end of a Teaching American History grant for teachers in Grades 8, 11 and 12, and as the state completed a new social studies curriculum, this north-central Florida district recognized the importance of addressing vertical alignment and acted to add professional development for teachers in earlier grades. Each cohort will participate in six days of concentrated, content-focused seminars; field studies at historic sites, including historical reenactment, document study and instructional materials; workshops and mentoring on the use of primary documents, historical simulations and other strategies; quarterly meetings of the professional learning community; online discussion forums that include history scholars; training in lesson planning; and classroom modeling and mentoring to support implementation of content and strategies. Each year, a new cohort of 22 fourth and fifth grade teachers and three seventh grade teachers will participate. Over the five years, teachers from all elementary and middle schools will be represented, and they will be mentored by project staff and teachers involved in the previous grant. To move away from passive learning activities, the project will strive to actively involve teachers and students in American history education. Teachers will be included in the district's curriculum mapping activities, which will prepare them for the instructional design assistance, resource materials and collegial support they will receive to design and implement hands-on instruction that integrates American history with reading and writing activities. Strategies will include problem-based learning and other inquiry-based approaches. As teachers complete their year of professional development, they will provide support to colleagues in their schools, expanding the project's reach.