Rivers, Roads, and Rails
In the Cleveland, OH, area, educators increased their professional prowess through a highly collaborative three-year Teaching American History (TAH grant).
In this project, teachers actively developed lessons, altered existing courses and curricula, and participated in both in-person and distance peer learning activities with other educators. All of this work was centered around three core teaching competencies—the development of historical thinking, optimizing teaching methodologies, and content expertise; and reflected the ways in which the Ohio and Erie National Heritage Canalway could be used to interpret major themes in U.S. history.
"Rivers, Roads, and Rails," provides a number of resources on their blog which could easily be applied to educational undertakings outside of their specific project. These include forms for logging oral history interview sessions and gaining permissions release (which can be used as templates for your own project forms), examples of Google maps made by participants, and links to resources on orphan trains.
Over the course of the three years, teachers observed running water in their local areas in order to compare it to historically important bodies of water, conducted environmental history oral interviews, toured rivers, made Google maps, and learned to use Skype to communicate in real-time between classrooms, in addition to other activities. Small groups were built in three ways at different events to foster various results of interchange: similar grade level; self-selected; and combinations of high school, middle school, and elementary teachers. Topics covered ranged from the Amish to historical fiction.
Perhaps most crucial to the process were end-of-project workshops at which teachers, professors, authors, and historians were able to discuss history and teaching. This program facet built a strong academic and support network for all the individuals involved, and culminated in the creation of lesson plans, designed to transfer intensive professional development directly to the classroom.