Thursday, August 26, 2010

Washington College a Partner in $950,000 Initiative on Teaching American History

CHESTERTOWN, MD—A federal grant worth $950,000 will fund a new professional development program for American History teachers in seven Maryland counties including Kent, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, Queen Anne's, St.Mary's and Talbot, thanks to the joint efforts of Sultana Projects, Kent County Public Schools, Washington College and the Calvert Marine Museum. Titled “Roots of a Nation – a Chesapeake Journey,” the local program is one of 124 “Teaching American History” grants awarded in 40 states. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the grants earlier this month.

The federal initiative requires grant recipients to partner with organizations that have broad knowledge of the nation’s history, such as libraries, museums, nonprofit historical or humanities organizations, and higher education institutions. As the organization spearheading the grant process, Sultana Projects worked under the auspices of the Kent County Public Schools to partner with the Calvert Marine Museum and two Washington College centers known for their hands-on and intensive study of Chesapeake Bay history—the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Center for Environment and Society.

The principal goals of the "Roots of a Nation” initiative are to increase teacher content knowledge, improve teaching practices, and measurably improve student achievement in American History. The program will provide 35 teachers with a rigorous three-year professional development program that emphasizes the use of primary documents, connects teachers to local resources, and examines innovative methods for delivering history content in the classroom. The participating teachers will be drawn from Kent, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s and Talbot Counties.

John Seidel, the director of the Center for Environment and Society at Washington College, says the objective is for these 35 teachers to become “master teachers” who take critical resources back to their schools and share their experience and knowledge with others. “We'll work with five teachers from each of the seven school districts,” he elaborates. “The program also will produce a wide range of very rich materials and resource guides that allow teachers to share lesson plans, student work samples, and effective teaching techniques across Maryland.

"The idea is to use this region itself as a microcosm for exploring American history," adds Adam Goodheart, the Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center, "everything from Native American cultures to the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. Along with intensive seminars, workshops, and research training, the participants will visit museums, battlefields, and archaeological digs, as well as sail aboard the Sultana."

U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin voiced strong support for the grant. “It will ensure that our Eastern Shore youngsters develop an appreciation of the unique history of the Chesapeake Bay region and the important role it has played in our nation's history,” he said.

Using the Chesapeake Bay as a unifying theme, "Roots of a Nation" will explore content and teaching goals related to four key periods in American History: 1) Native American History and European Settlement, 2) the Revolutionary War Period, 3) the War of 1812, and 4) Slavery and the Civil War.

"I am very excited about the awarding of this grant," said Kent County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Wheeler. “The professional development funds will provide teachers with strategies that will make history come alive for our young learners. Because multiple counties will participate in the grant, teachers will be able to network and learn from others in the same profession. This is a great opportunity for our children and teachers."

For additional information, please contact Sultana Projects at 410-778-5954 or email

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