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The Foundation of America

Fewer than half of this project's 36 teachers—all located in rural or small-town districts in east central Indiana—possess credit hours in American history. Following a training session at the beginning of the year, small cohorts (five to seven teachers) will meet once per semester to learn content and develop instructional units. At these study groups, historians and specialists will use interactive, multimedia webcasts to present American history content enhanced by images, maps, graphics, video clips, short pieces of text, Web links and the like. The teachers will attend 5-day summer workshops each year to learn additional content and visit historic sites. Ten preservice teachers from Ball State University also will participate each year, raising the total project participation to 86. The content will address pre-Columbian times to 1800, with an emphasis on the American Revolution and the nation's founding. During the first three years, the topics will cover the entire time period; in Years 4-5, the project will deepen the teachers' knowledge and understanding of the Revolution and the writing of the Constitution. Through the Understanding by Design approach, the teachers will learn (1) the big ideas and core processes fundamental to the study of American history, (2) the linchpin ideas transferable within American history, and (3) the big ideas necessary to understand the facts and processes within topics. Based on these understandings, they will identify important knowledge, create essential questions and improve their historical thinking skills. Upon successful peer review by the project staff, the teacher-generated lesson plans and other materials will be posted on a Web site.