Oswego joins Teaching American History project

More than 100,000 students throughout the Finger Lakes may see changes in how they learn about history, thanks in part to the efforts of SUNY Oswego faculty members.

History and curriculum and instruction professors from SUNY Oswego will provide professional and curriculum development under a federal Teaching American History grant received by the Eastern Wayne County Rural Public Schools Consortium. The North Rose-Wolcott Central School District received the $779,000 U.S. Department of Education grant in partnership with three other Wayne Country districts that serve mostly rural populations. Of 122 grants awarded in 2004, 17 came to New York state, but few support rural districts.

“It’s a good example of a partnership between the college and K through 12 teachers in American history,” said Dr. Douglas Deal, professor and chair of history at SUNY Oswego. “We hope everyone involved will learn something about what the others are doing and establish some long-lasting ties in the process.”

SUNY Oswego’s participation includes organizing and leading summer on-campus institutes for scholastic history teachers in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Around 75 teachers who serve 5,000 students in a 300-square-mile radius in Wayne County are expected to participate each year in the summer institutes.

Trying to enhance teaching efforts by making the process of learning more engaging and concrete to students is a major goal. For example, when teachers have students engage in role-playing or hypothesizing different results, learners can gain a deeper understanding of historical events, Deal said. Finding human-interest angles is an example of an approach that works for all levels, he added.

“The themes include focusing on understanding certain episodes in our nation’s history and finding different routes to common ground,” Deal explained. This will include examining how different perspectives influence the recording and teaching of history.

For instance, the historical record of the War of 1812 would look different from Iroquois or Canadian perspectives compared to what is normally taught in U.S. schools, Deal noted. “There are a lot of complexities to historic events, and the pictures developed after the facts are often worked into a simplified master narrative,” he added.

Plans call for teachers who attend the summer institutes at Oswego to mentor and instruct 300 other elementary and secondary teachers within a four-county Finger Lakes region. This second wave of teachers instructs around 100,000 additional students.

The grant will pay for services provided by Oswego faculty members and incidental costs like supplies. It also will fund seminars during the school year led by Oswego professors, as well as visits to interpretive attractions around the Finger Lakes region.

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(Posted: Aug 25, 2004)