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Beyond the Textbook: Exploring American History

Beyond the Textbook: Exploring American History (Beyond) will help teachers in New York's Lower Hudson Valley to rediscover the practice of historical inquiry; the grant's service area includes a middle school in need of improvement, and the history teachers there will be especially encouraged to participate. Each year, participating teachers will engage in professional development that helps them explore historical topics and methods in depth: an October kick-off event during which participants are assigned to small-group learning communities and receive the year's readings, two full-day in-service workshops and one after-school workshop on content and pedagogy, a 5-day summer institute featuring lectures and collaborative lesson development, two independent assignments, and two day-long field trips. All activities will be aligned to the Beyond blueprint, a description of the ideal history classroom that is based on the Concerns-Based Adoption Model. A program Wiki will enable teachers to participate in threaded discussions about their independent reading assignments. A single cohort of 50 teachers will take part in the program for all five years. Topics for each year will be aligned to state history standards, and the thematic focus will be on unraveling the tangled issues of history, such as the confluence of personal, racial, cultural, and societal forces that produced the Peekskill Riots of 1949. Teachers will learn to make history relevant to young people through the use of primary source documents, historical inquiry, debates, Socratic seminars, and technology tools. A project Web site will feature recordings of content presentations, teacher-developed lessons, and pictures and handouts from content and pedagogy sessions.