Grant Backs Local Schools, U.Va.'s Virginia Center for Digital History in Teaching American History

July 14, 2009

July 14, 2009 — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded public schools in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Greene, Madison and Orange counties, in partnership with the University of Virginia's Virginia Center for Digital History, a $980,191 "Teaching American History" grant.

The grant, announced by U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, who represents Virginia's 5th District, will support "America on the World Stage," a program that over the next five years will provide professional development and training for American and world history educators who teach kindergarten through grade 12.

"One of the best investments we can make is in those who teach our children," Perriello said. "I'm grateful these federal funds will help our local history teachers expand their expertise so they can better serve our students as they prepare to enter a global economy."

The focus is on incorporating a global perspective on American history. The world history component will allow participation by K-3 teachers, whose focus is on teaching social studies and world civilizations, areas that were not included under previous "Teaching American History" grants.

"As students of history, we are all familiar with the Declaration of Independence, the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War," said Andy Mink, director of outreach and education at the Virginia Center for Digital History. "What we will do is begin to look at the same events from global and international perspectives."

Eligible teachers will attend lectures and interact with history scholars, learn to research using digital archives and create classroom ready materials to share with colleagues.

Scholars from more than 30 universities are participating in the project. In addition to the U.Va. center's own extensive digital archives, participants will have access to a wide range of archives, historical sites, collections and resources from around the country.

Learning to navigate and use these digital and other resources will benefit teachers' scholarly pursuits and provide materials and methodology to create inquiry-based classroom materials.

Christine Esposito, a sixth-grade teacher at Walker Upper Elementary School in Charlottesville, participated in a 2006 "Teaching American History" grant awarded to the same partnering institutions. "Participation in the grant opened up many opportunities to learn how to teach history well, as well as learning new information and being able to turn that around and bring that new information into my classroom," she said. "Being a part of the grant made me a much better teacher, taught me how to find and use primary sources – even with elementary school students."

The project will also include publishing teacher-created materials in an online archive. These materials, which will be subject to a review process, will be available to anyone who visits the center's Web site, Mink said.

— By Jane Ford