Let Freedom Ring: Participating in American History through Primary Documents
The city of St. Louis constitutes the core of a large metropolitan area, and its schools serve a high-needs population. Students in St. Louis Public Schools have scored considerably below averages on Missouri's state achievement test, and the state has designated the district as being in need of improvement. To reform and revitalize the St. Louis Public Schools American history program at the elementary school level, Let Freedom Ring will provide two years of professional development to each fourth and fifth grade teachers in the district's 40 elementary schools. For each teacher, the first year of involvement will include a 35-hour seminar series, a 3-day summer institute on the tools of social science inquiry, and a 3-day field experience. In their second year, teachers will receive on-site assistance and support from historians as they design and implement at least three high-quality standards-based instructional units. Four cohorts will be trained, with 30 teachers in each cohort. Teachers and, ultimately, their students, will become more knowledgeable about critical events, documents, timelines and relationships in our nation's history and will experience history in a personal way as they interact with primary source documents. Instructional strategies will focus on inquiry methods that require hands-on examination of primary documents, critical analysis, case study, discussion and research. Let Freedom Ring will provide a model for enhancing American history programming at the elementary level, and a program implementation guide will be made available to other districts wishing to adopt or adapt the St. Louis model.