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Education | Teaching American History

Course Overview:
"The Power of Place:
The Civil War's Landscapes of Crisis"

Overview: The Teaching American History program is a professional development program designed to improve both teaching and learning through historic place-based studies and pedagogical orientation to historical thinking. 

2012's theme is "Landscapes of Crisis." Concentrating largely on the Civil War and its foundational issues of treason, secession, and emancipation, teachers will receive training on bringing new scholarships into their classroom through place-based study and Common Core aligned lessons.

Participating teachers receive a total of eight graduate credits, which are fully funded through the grant. Participants will engage in a two and a half week Summer Institute at American University, which features two graduate-level courses: Civil War Institute, a content course in American history and Place and Pedagogy, a course in historical pedagogy. Throughout the Summer Institute, 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 will alternate between lectures and discussions, in addition to facilitating field studies in which teachers collect video and documentary data for the curricular units they develop. Teacher will then attend two Saturday workshops in the Fall, as units are finalized, field-tested, and revised. 

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, including Mt. Vernon, Tudor Place, and Independence Hall, and the National Building Museum. The teachers will discuss and adapt the substance and methods of academic and public historians' work to create robust learning environments, develop new historical thinking 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. 

This program is funded through a US Department of Education Teaching American History Grant.

Teacher Recruitment: Social Studies and U.S. History teachers in grades 4, 5, 8, and 11

Grant Partners:

  • DC Public Schools
  • American University
  • Center for History and New Media at George Mason University
  • National Building Museum, Mt. Vernon, and Tudor Place

Program Timeline:

Summer Institute with field studies (2 graduate courses, 6 credits total):

June 19 - June 22: Power of Place Pedagogy
June 25 - June 29: Civil War Institute
July 2 - July 3: Power of Place Review and Wrap-Up

Professional Development Workshops in Fall 2012 (dates TBD; 2 credits total)

To Apply: By Friday, March 16, please send an email to including:

  1. Resume
  2. Application
  3. Letter of Intent (no more than a page) answering the following questions:
  • Why would this grant benefit your professional growth?
  • How would it impact student achievement in your classroom?
  • What is an example of previous experience(s) that demonstrates your commitment level as well as your leadership potential for future grant participants?