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Setting Our Sites on History: Using Historical Museums and Landmarks to Teach American History

In these western New York state districts, teachers have few opportunities for history professional development and, because of state certification requirements, most have little formal preparation in American history. Setting Our Sites on History (Setting Our Sites) will address teachers' needs with 90 hours of professional development in a yearlong program: eight school-day workshops to present content, three Saturday workshops to design service learning activities, and a 4-day residential summer institute in Washington, D.C. to link local themes into a national framework. Historians and a regional archivist will present content in a site-based learning format, with sessions to be held at museums and historical landmarks. Each annual cohort of 25 teachers will be joined by future teachers of social studies from Buffalo State College—either in classrooms as student teachers or in project activities. Setting Our Sites will explore the ramifications and ideas behind the American ideal of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This theme will link an exploration of the experiences of eight groups of people in American history who have struggled for and among one another for full rights (Native Americans, soldiers, pioneers, immigrants, women, children, the working class and African Americans). Instructional strategies will include a focus on service learning, which will have teachers design activities to engage students with local and national history. After completing the year-long training, teachers will mentor their colleagues to improve history teaching and employ service learning to build the collections of and interactions with historical sites and museums.

 
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