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WSC Part of $1M DOE Grant to Improve History Instruction

October 20, 2009
By: Worcester State University News

The Worcester Public Schools (WPS) has received a one-million dollar Teaching American History grant from the Federal Department of Education to work collaboratively with several local nonprofit organizations including the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), Assumption College, Old Sturbridge Village (OSV), and Worcester State College to improve the teaching of United States history in a three-year project entitled Securing the Blessings of Liberty. This is one of only 123 projects funded nationally and is the third consecutive TAH grant the WPS, working in collaboration with its cultural and educational partners, has received.

Securing the Blessings of Liberty builds upon two other Federal funded TAH collaborations with the American Antiquarian Society and other cultural and educational partners to deepen and increase public school teacher’s knowledge in American history.  Focusing on WPS fifth grade and high school social studies teachers, the five-year project uses the U.S. Constitution as a lens to explore a variety of issues in American history. “Our goal is to provide teachers and in turn their students with a deeper and richer understanding of the forces that shaped the creation of the Constitution; the struggles that took place for its ratification; and the approaches to interpretation that lay the foundation of our nation’s judicial and legislative systems,” said, Colleen Kelly, WPS history and social science liaison and a co-director of the project.

The program is in two-phases with the first year composed of a select group of ten “coaching” teachers taking a graduate-level course taught by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) professor of history, Steven C. Bullock. This course covers the development of the Constitution from the Revolution to the Reconstruction. These same teachers will follow this formal course with a semester of independent study and research in the collections of the AAS and OSV. These instructors will be paired with area scholars who will serve as mentors guiding their research as they develop lesson plans and curriculum units that integrate primary source historical documents and images from AAS and OSV.

The second phase of Securing the Blessings of Liberty will be composed of a series of professional development days that provide in-depth content instruction to all fifth grade and high school WPS history teachers around the Constitution and its influences on U.S. History.    These professional development days will be led by various guest historians. The “coaching” teachers will also serve as instructors sharing the materials and best practices they developed during their independent studies at AAS and OSV to their peers through break out sessions and modeling lessons in connecting the content to the classroom.

“We are excited that this project has teachers conducting in-depth research in our collections and finding innovative ways to use our resources in their classrooms. These people will be scholars in the true sense of the word and will then share their new-found knowledge with their peers – creating a true community of learning,” said, James David Moran, director of outreach and co-director of the Securing the Blessings of Liberty project.

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