Teachers' summer trip brings history lessons to high school
When asked, "what did you do during summer vacation?" these three teachers will have some pretty good stories to share. Mike Cool, Tom Coborn and Sandy Aldrich, all Park Rapids Area High School social studies teachers, went on trips this summer t...
When asked, "what did you do during summer vacation?" these three teachers will have some pretty good stories to share.
Mike Cool, Tom Coborn and Sandy Aldrich, all Park Rapids Area High School social studies teachers, went on trips this summer to help broaden their teaching base.
Cool and Coborn went on a trip to Boston funded by a "Teaching American History" grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The trip was a weeklong seminar and led them through many of Boston's historical landmarks.
Fifty high school teachers went on the trip along with six Bemidji State University professors.
A typical day would start off with an hour lecture and then they would go out on the town and tour various sites. They would also get some free time to go back and visit places they'd already seen if they wanted to, or go explore somewhere they hadn't visited yet.
Places they visited include Walden Pond, John Adams' house, a replica of the Mayflower, and many others.
Walden Pond proved to not be the serene spot Thoreau had written about in his poem.
"What was striking about Walden was Thoreau's description of the natural setting wasn't the appearance at all today," Cool said, "The 'pond' looked pretty much like a public beach and subdivided lake home property. So much for Thoreau's 'green' vision!"
A highlight for Coborn was going to an old tavern that had been a hang out for George Washington back in the day. "They had a lock of his hair on display at the tavern," Coborn said, describing how the tavern's owners made sure to pay tribute to one of their most famous guests.
Paul Revere's house also gave the teachers some handy information to bring back to the classroom.
"What is unique is the sign of wealth for the times, (large nails on the front door), Cool explained. "As he was a very successful silversmith in the Boston area."
Along with the history they will bring back to their students, the teachers are helping to make test questions for Minnesota history exams. They will also be observed in the classroom twice this year by the Bemidji professors to see how they've worked what they learned and experienced into their lesson plans.
Aldrich was able to go on more than one seminar this summer, and she made the most out of it.
The first seminar was in Virginia, and it was sponsored by the Lee Foundation, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the University of Virginia. While there, she visited Mount Vernon, Yorktown, Williamsburg and many other places.
"We went to the homes of the Virginia leaders to study their part and also the role of slavery in their lives," Aldrich said. That trip was three weeks long.
Her next stop was Atlanta, GA. This was a weeklong seminar sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH).
"The purpose is to get teachers at the place where history happened to be able to have a better connection to the place and to be able to bring it back to their students," Aldrich explained.
While in Atlanta, they visited Martin Luther Kings' gravesite and other places in Atlanta that still show the signs of segregation.
"We met with people who tried to change that segregation in the 1960s," Aldrich said.
Once that trip had ended, she was off to Hyde Park, NY. This trip was also sponsored by NEH. At Hyde Park they studied "Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the World Crisis" at his Presidential Library. The group also listened to lectures from the sons of David Brinkley and Arthur Schlesinger.
The last seminar she attended was sponsored by Gilder-Lehrman.
"Dr. David Armitage led discussions on how the Declaration of Independence was a unique document that still influences the world today," Aldrich said.
That seminar was held at the University Virginia and Monticello.
The highlight of the trip for Aldrich came on the Fourth of July. "We went to the annual Naturalization Ceremony held at Monticello," she explained. "Seventy people are picked to take their oath of citizenship at Jefferson's home."
The speaker at the event was President George W. Bush. "It was fun seeing him interact with the new citizens," Aldrich said.
"It was moving to say the Pledge of Allegiance with the new citizens," Aldrich said. "The Pledge was led by a World War II vet who stormed the beach on D-Day."
Now that summer has come to an end and the school doors are open once more, these three teachers will have first hand experience of history to bring to the students in their classrooms.