Warner Helps Rochester City School Teachers Enhance History Lessons

Warner School teaching and curriculum professors will assist teachers with improving American History instruction as part of two federal grants awarded to the Rochester City School District (RCSD) by the U.S. Department of Education through its Teaching American History grant program.

Kevin MeuwissenDavid Hursh, associate professor, and Kevin Meuwissen, assistant professor, both will serve as new pedagogical partners to two Teaching American History grants that are designed to help teachers get excited about history education and build upon their knowledge of pedagogy and the subject matter, with a goal to improve student achievement.

The first grant award, Teachers as Historians, includes book circles, instructional labs, a summer institute, and a lecture series for secondary teachers around social reform movements in American history, from abolitionism (a movement beginning in the early 1830s to end slavery) to the Progressive Era (a period from the 1890s to the 1920s). Meuwissen, who joins the program as part of an ongoing grant, will work closely with cohorts of teachers and program mentors to help them integrate current research on student learning into various methods of classroom history instruction. He says that the program offers history educators a unique opportunity to strengthen their rationales and strategies for teaching students to interpret evidence and build and share their own historical arguments.

David HurshThe second and most recent grant, Growing Up in America, which was awarded in August, is geared toward teaching history to kindergarten through second-grade students and getting them to think historically. Hursh will help to make learning engaging and appropriate for elementary teachers. Specifically, this program will focus on local Rochester history, including how neighborhoods changed as people arrived from other parts of the country and world, changes in children’s work and play, and changes in families. Additionally, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers will be able to participate in training where they will explore government documents and how to make them relevant and meaningful for children.

Hursh says that children think historically even before beginning school. “Children actively try to understand past events and can situate events and artifacts on a timeline; they can even think historically about Rochester and groups that have come here,” he says. “These projects will have many benefits for student learning, including literacy and other subjects, and will demonstrate great potential for what children can do in school.”

Additional community partners working together on these Teaching American History grants to bring high-quality professional development to Rochester teachers include: Nazareth College; The College at Brockport, State University of New York; Rochester Museum and Science Center; Strong National Museum of Play; Memorial Art Gallery; Genesee Country Village and Museum; and the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County.

The Teaching American History grant program aims to enhance teachers’ understanding of American history through intensive professional development, including study trips to historic sites and mentoring with professional historians and other experts. By helping teachers to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of U.S. history as a unique subject matter within the core curriculum, these programs will ultimately improve instruction and raise student achievement.

Contact: Theresa Danylak

Tags: David Hursh, history education, Kevin Meuwissen, social studies, social studies education