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Profiles and Perspectives of Our American Identity

The districts in this northern New Jersey consortium vary in size and demography, and many face challenges that have prevented them from offering rigorous history professional development. Profiles and Perspectives of Our American Identity will engage teachers in annual activities that include two full-day history seminars, one field research experience, a variety of supplemental activities (e.g., lesson study, research) and a 5-day summer academy. Every year, participants will have at least 112 hours of professional development in content, methods and research. A core group of 40 teachers, with a minimum of two from each district, will participate for all five years and will be selected mainly from schools in need of improvement. An additional 15 to 20 teachers will participate each year based on need and availability. The project will invite teachers to compare and contrast local, regional and national events in American history through profiles of well-known and ordinary individuals and their perspectives on ideas, decisions, events and issues. For example, the profiles (based largely on personal papers and primary sources) from Colonial America will include Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Native Americans, indentured servants and farmers. Their perspectives on such issues as government and law, steps toward unity, social and economic conditions, family life and religion will be considered. Project staff and historians will help participants learn to employ inductive instruction, address diverse learning styles, use "History Habits of Mind" and essential questions, and conduct historical research. Teachers will develop classroom libraries of teaching materials and, through lesson study, will collaborate to design, deliver, observe and refine lesson plans.