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Reflecting on Our Past

Fresno County, in the San Joaquin Valley halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, includes many rural areas where teachers have few professional development opportunities and students come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The region's students tend to score below average on the state history test. Reflecting on Our Past offers three components: (1) the Teaching American History certificate program, which will offer teachers opportunities for advanced study to earn a certificate; (2) the colloquium series, with six 2-day events each year that cover both content and pedagogy; and (3) the summer travel study and curriculum history institute, a 5-day, content-driven, scholar-guided event. These components are designed to different levels of complexity, and the colloquia and summer institutes will be organized around each year's topic area. The 50 teachers who participate in the year-long colloquium series will be recruited from the appropriate grade level and from schools with the greatest needs. During the grant period, two cohorts of 15 teachers (30 total) will complete the 2-year certification for teaching American history. The summer travel study and curriculum institute will accommodate 50 teachers, who will be drawn from both groups. Reflecting on Our Past aims to restore American history teaching and learning to the elementary classroom. Teachers will learn about integrating language arts and history instruction, so both receive the classroom time they deserve. Teachers, and then their students, will be able to comprehend and analyze expository history texts, use primary sources, and apply historical thinking skills. The project will produce a cadre of teachers who can assist their colleagues.