The Making of America, designed especially for K–8 teachers, will explore the people, ideas, and events that shaped the United States from the colonial era through Reconstruction. Each day focuses on key primary sources and the latest interpretations of major historical events and periods, including the American Revolution, Jacksonian America, and the Civil War and Reconstruction. This “long” view of early American history will highlight changing (and contesting) definitions of America by a fascinating and diverse range of people. Washington, DC, will serve as a laboratory, with special in-person outings to museums, monuments, and historic sites to supplement classroom lessons. In the process, participants will analyze the past—and representations of the past—in ways that give meaning to the present. The goal is to provide teachers with a wealth of knowledge and resources to apply creatively in the elementary and middle school classroom.
The two-week institute consists of ten days of discussions, pedagogy sessions, and field trips (with breaks for lunch and office hours). Participants will have the weekend between the first and second week off. Participants will occasionally be asked to view lectures either before or after daily live sessions.
- Each day starts at 9:00 a.m. and concludes between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. Weekdays include a lunch break and time at the end of the day for optional work time and activities.
- Over the course of the two weeks, each participant will prepare a TLTH lesson plan that incorporates primary sources, historical evidence, and the institute’s pedagogical methods. Teachers will present their lessons on the final day. Time will be set aside throughout the two weeks to meet with Master Teacher Connie López-Fink to receive guidance on the lesson plan project.
The in-person aspect of the institute allows for place-based and object-based learning opportunities at famous historic sites around Washington, DC. A tentative list of sites includes
- Arlington National Cemetery and Arlington House. Before the visit, Steve Hammond, a genealogist, family historian, and descendant of the Syphax Family, will discuss his efforts to elucidate his family’s history and ensure they are part of the narrative interpreted by the National Park Service at Arlington House. During the visit, Hammond will explain his role in shaping how the NPS currently interprets the history of slavery on the grounds of the cemetery. For those with accessibility needs, Arlington National Cemetery allows visitors with a valid disability placard or proof of disability documentation to ride the Arlington National Cemetery Tours, Inc. interpretive tour bus at no cost, with one companion. There is wheelchair access to the first floor of Arlington House and the museum. The basement and second floor are not wheelchair accessible.
- Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office. Participants will learn about the invaluable work of Clara Barton during and after the Civil War at this hidden gem in the historic Penn Quarter neighborhood. Museum educators will lead a tour of the museum and facilitate a discussion on how participants can incorporate the life and legacy of Clara Barton into their classrooms. The second floor of the museum is accessible by an elevator.
- Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Participants will tour the home where Douglass lived for the final seventeen years of his life and learn about Douglass’s enduring fight for freedom and equality. Assistive listening devices and an American Sign Language interpreter are available for the house tours upon prior request. A descriptive listening device is available upon request for the 19-minute film in the visitor center. For those with mobility concerns, a paved path extends from the visitor center to the house, which is located on top of a large hill. Only the first floor of the house is wheelchair accessible. Rangers can provide a photo tour of the second floor for those who are not able to access it.
- Ford’s Theatre. Members of the museum education team will lead participants on a historic site tour and discuss how they can explore the leadership and legacy of Abraham Lincoln in their classrooms. An elevator provides access to the lower-level museum and the balcony levels of the theatre.
- George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Accompanied by Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky, a former fellow of the Washington Library at Mount Vernon, participants will tour the historic mansion and surrounding grounds while examining how the site interprets the accomplishments of George Washington and his role as an enslaver. Participants will also meet with Alissa Oginsky, the manager of teacher programs, to learn about the site’s offerings for educators. The first floor of the mansion, the Ford Orientation Center, and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center are fully accessible. Descriptive and American Sign Language–interpreted tours are available upon prior request. Captioning services are available for all onsite films, through the Podcatcher App, and for tours upon request.
- National Archives Museum. To culminate the unit on the American Revolution, participants will visit the National Archives Museum to view original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Members of the National Archives staff will meet with the group to discuss the variety of resources available for educators. All facilities at the museum are accessible by elevator. American Sign Language interpreters are available upon prior request. Copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are available in braille.
- National Museum of African American History and Culture. Accompanied by Professor Christopher Bonner, participants will travel to the NMAAHC to view objects that exemplify the experiences of African Americans throughout American history. Participants will be asked to select three objects from the museum’s collection that can be used to facilitate discussions on the history of slavery and abolition. The museum is equipped with elevators, escalators, and ramps. For those who are blind or experience low vision, the museum is equipped with braille/raised image maps. Sighted guides can be requested for up to 45 minutes in a gallery or floor of the visitor’s choice. Live, on-demand visual interpreting can be accessed through the Aira Access app while connected to the museum’s free Wi-Fi. All media in the museum is open-captioned.
- National Museum of the American Indian. To supplement lectures presented by Professor David Silverman, participants will visit the National Museum of the American Indian and work with Renée Gokey, the museum’s teacher services coordinator, to discuss how to approach teaching Native American history in the most effective and respectful way. All floors of the museum are accessible by elevator. Live, on-demand visual interpretation can be accessed through the Aira Access app while connected to the museum’s free Wi-Fi.
View the schedule here. Please note that activities are subject to change. A final schedule will be provided to participants.