The RESA II Teaching American History Grant Program, partnering with Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio, will complete its third year (2007-08) on September 30, 2008. The program was coordinated by Thomas M. Miller, Jr.; Project Director was Kelly L. Watts; and the RESA II Executive Director, R.P. Powell (retired) and Dr. Dee Cockrille. We work in concert with Roger Beckett, Assistance Deputy Director of the Ashbrook Center, Ashland University who serves as a liaison to the RESA II project.
The 2007-2008 book study was based on Differentiated Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms (2001) by Carol Ann Tomlinson and was the third year of a three-year series of book studies. The RESA II Book Study Project for Fall 2006 - Spring 2007 was based on Marzanoís What Works in Schools (2003). The 2005-2006 project was based on Classroom Instruction that Works (2001) by Marzano, Pickering and Pollack.
In addition to the emphasis on improving schools and classroom instructional practices, the 2006-07 and the 2007-08 Book Study Projects also provided content-specific American history information designed to enhance teacher effectiveness in the classroom. One strategy for accomplishing this objective was the integration of selected American history texts into the book study initiative. The 2006-07 books were The Power of Kiowa Song (1998) by Eric L. Lassiter, Revolutionary Characters (2006) by Gordon S. Wood, and Donít Buy Another Vote, I Wonít Pay for a Landslide (2006) by Allen Loughry. Revolutionary Characters was used as a book study by the group while the authors of the remaining two books met with the combined group of participants to present and discuss their works.
The books used in the 2007-08 project were The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, The Pioneers: Their Lives and Adventures by Dale Payne and 101 Things You Did Not Know About The Civil War by Thomas Turner. Two of the authors (Walls and Payne) met with the entire group of participants. Dr. Terry Smith, whose mother, grandmother and grandfather were confined to Japanese internment camps in WWII, also spoke to each of the local learning communities in November.
A second strategy for integrating history content into the learning community discussions was the inclusion of history field trips to selected locations. Field trips for the project included study visits to Washington, D.C., Asheville, NC, Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA, Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, the Greenbrier Bunker and Blennerhassett Island, WV.
Dr. Ron Childress, Marshall University, Huntington, WV served as the outside evaluator for the project including data collection and analysis. Dr. Childress created a pre and post survey based on the textbook used in the project. He also reviewed journals/reflective logs from project participants.
RESA II TAH participants were also offered the opportunity to attend week-long summer institutes held at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio. There were four weeks of summer institutes offered, and participants were asked to attend two weeks of the four offered. Ashland University invited expert historians/authors and also utilized Ashland University history/political science professors to lecture and interact with the TAH participants. The TAH participants were sent historical reading materials (original documents) to read prior to attending the summer institutes. Feedback received from the TAH participants has been very positive.
Monies left over from year three will be used to extent to project through December 2008 pending approval of the US Department of Education. There are many historical sites/locations close to our area that are of great historical value that would enhance teacher knowledge. Participants would collect pertinent material and document the field trip (i.e., videotape, digital pictures, slides, etc.) to share with students in their classrooms.
As was reported in the original grant proposal, this area of West Virginia (southwestern WV) is economically deprived and school systems do not have funds to supply TAH teachers with supplemental American history materials; therefore, we would like to extend the project funds to assist teachers with this need.
Teachers attending the Summer Institutes at Ashland University receive excellent information to share with their students. Teachers attending the institutes also receive a wealth of historical materials for use in their classrooms. Teachers are also provided a stipend, housing, and meals while attending these summer institutes.
We feel that year three of the grant was very successful; however, we believe that by extending the grant we will be even more successful as a result of lessons learned and better participation of teacher partners.
The reason for this grant is two fold: first, to help teachers become more informed about teaching American history from original documents and using various teaching techniques; and secondly, the most important thing, helping our students become more aware and have a better understanding of American history.
Some quotes about the project from the TAH Participants are as follows:
“This was a terrific opportunity to bring history to life”
“Great knowledge based field trip”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and will especially be able to use the DVD to show my students important parts of our nationís capital.”
“Dr. Smithís cultural experiences were shared with my geography students.”
“A person can be anything despite their background with education and support (The Glass Castle by Walls)”
“I have used many different chapters in teaching my 8th graders about the civil war, I use it as a reference resource (101 Things You Did Not Know About The Civil War by Turner)”
“I used the stories from his book to expand on students discussion when on the chapter about pioneer life and the dangers and hardships the faced in southern West Virginia (The Pioneers, by Payne)”
“Visiting, Philadelphia and New York were wonderful learning experiences to be shared with my students”
RESA II will apply in November 2008, for a new Teaching American History Grant through the United States Department of Education.