NAU and FUSD receive grant to boost history education

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NAU is helping shape the future of teaching history in northern Arizona schools in collaboration with the Flagstaff Unified School District.

With support of nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education, the Teaching American History program will offer fourth through 12th grade teachers new methods of and perspectives on teaching history. The competitive grant awarded $115.3 million to 124 school districts nationwide in support of the core academic subject.

In consortium with 14 northern Arizona school districts including FUSD, NAU will deliver training and mentoring for history teachers that qualifies as continuing education or master’s degree credit. The participating school districts serve approximately 24,000 students, many of whom are in geographically isolated areas including Native American communities.

A recent survey of the region’s history teachers revealed that 45 percent do not have history degrees, and 17 percent were not considered by district standards as “highly qualified” to teach history. Priority will be given to new teachers, those with little history background and those teaching in struggling schools.

Aimed at enhancing educators’ ability to engage students in learning and increasing history-related skills, the program will offer teachers continuing education courses centered on viewing history through a “local-to-global” lens. Courses offered through NAU will include hands-on workshops, field study research, online discussions and content seminars.

Five history themes to be emphasized in the courses are Learning History by Doing History, From Colonies to the Nation State, Transforming the Moving “West,” Progressive Era to World War II, and Cold War to 9/11.

Charles Connell, chair of the history department at NAU, said the project has the potential to enhance the knowledge and skills of up to 100 teachers over the three-year life of the project.

“This will have an impact upon countless students who enroll in the courses of these teachers and—we hope—encourage more of them to study history further with a greater understanding of how the local and global are connected over time,” Connell said.

Courses in the Teaching American History program will begin in January.