Ohio as America, a Teaching American History grant funded by the US Department of Education, is a partnership of the Summit County Educational Service Center, The University of Akron and the Ohio Historical Society. This project provides a content-rich professional development experience for fourth, fifth, eighth and tenth grade social studies teachers in 17 school districts throughout Summit County and from districts in Portage and Medina counties served by the Summit County Educational Service Center.
Using Ohio as a lens to study important people, places, events and issues in US history, teachers will explore a different theme each year that courses throughout the historical narrative of US history. These themes are: American Political Democracy, America’s Multicultural Heritage, and Technology and Economic Change.
Among the project’s goals are to improve teachers’ knowledge and understanding of American history, to improve teachers’ abilities to craft content-rich, effective unit plans aligned to Ohio Academic Content Standards and to improve students’ knowledge and understanding of American history.
Central to project activities is the use of primary source materials from partner institutions, historic sites and seminars that relate to each year’s core theme. By integrating new content knowledge and primary sources, teachers will create primary source-based lessons that will develop historical critical thinking skills in their students.
History content activities and professional development training is presented through a variety of experiences. Each year begins with a two-week Summer Institute that includes visits to historic sites in Ohio relating to each year’s core theme and workshops that provide training and materials necessary to apply new history content knowledge and primary source analysis skills to the creation of lesson plans that engage students in active learning and develop their skills in critically analyzing historic time periods and issues in US History.
By meeting with historic site interpreters and museum professionals, teachers can investigate complex historic themes while immersing themselves in the physical context of those themes. Visiting these sites allows teachers to connect the everyday experiences of men, women, and children in the state of Ohio to issues and trends that permeate US history and understand how Ohioans were shaped by the times and places around them and how they contributed to the nation’s political, social and economic history. These historic sites also offer teachers primary source materials and ideas for activities that can be aligned to Ohio Academic Content Standards and adapted to grade level learning activities.
In the fall teachers attend three Saturday Seminars featuring university historians who will provide the latest scholarship on topics relevant to each year’s theme. Historians lead discussions on how these themes played out in Ohio and in the nation in different time periods. Ohio Historical Society staff will provide teachers with primary sources and lead them in activities that use these sources to develop historical analysis thinking and that can be adapted for the use in the classroom. Follow-up workshops further link seminar content to the project’s overarching yearly theme and to grade-level Ohio Academic Content Standards.
During the Summer Institute and at follow-up workshops held throughout the school year, the grant’s social studies consultant will train teachers in the concept of a “backward design” framework for lesson planning. In addition, instructors from the Teachers Curriculum Institute will conduct a History Alive! workshop on teaching strategies that actively engage students in hands-on, primary source-based activities that can be adapted to grade level.