Friday, May 30, 2008

Taft in the South - 5 days of history love!

So, what in the world am I thinking, driving 1200 miles all around the Deep South when I could be starting the summer by relaxing at home, playing softball with my kids, watching some long awaited movies with my wife, and getting to those home improvements that I want to do but never have time for during the school year?

I think my grant proposal rationale provides some insight ...

My Civil War Virginia trip two years ago was one of the greatest travel and professional development experiences in my educational career. The ability to see, think, discuss, and relive history in the historical locations with education experts is unbeatable. This trip will add immensely to my growth as a teacher, a student of history, and, as corny as it may sound, an American.

The Civil War stops on this trip will allow me to see an under discussed yet incredibly important aspect of the war – the Western Theater. Recent scholarship is increasingly arguing that the war was won in the West, and I hope to find out some of the impact of the Western campaigns firsthand. Visiting the actual battlefields not only allows me to get a closer sense of the struggles of the men in blue and gray, but also will increase my desire to become involved in battlefield preservation (and hopefully have some 8th graders share the interest). In addition, the Deep South is an area that I have never visited, and I am interested to hear the people’s perspective of the Civil War. I also plan on investigating the role of Wisconsin soldiers at Shiloh, bringing a local tie to the trip.

I have never been able to study about World War II as much as I want, and I can’t think of a better place to begin the National World War II Museum. The facility is the finest in the nation for the topic of the war, and I will improve my content knowledge as well as my appreciation for the men and women of the Greatest Generation. The museum has a partner schools program and a few more grandiose field trips that I would like to check out and possibly participate in the future. The museum also has a fantastic oral history program that I would like to use as a model for integration into the 8th grade curriculum.

The Civil Rights movement is an area of my instruction that I would really like to improve, both in content and pedagogy. I think the perspective I have on the movement is far removed from that of the people who participated in the great events in the South. Visits to the various Civil Rights museums and locations will help build my knowledge base and offer a broader perspective that I can translate to my students. I also have a personal interest in Martin Luther King, Jr., which will only be deepened by the trip.

I look forward to working with museum directors and educational specialists in order to develop the 8th grade curriculum. I am always looking for the great resources, especially primary sources and technology based materials. I also hope to glean some tips, lesson plans, and ideas for more engaging and interactive lessons for our 8th graders. The resources available at the various museums are greater than I can find locally or online. The increased content knowledge and teaching ideas and resources will enhance three very important areas of the 8th grade curriculum.

I also feel that the time alone will allow me to focus on historical content and teaching ideas. My drives will consist of listening to books on tape concerning the topics of the locations I will visit. I will also record my thoughts as I drive, walk, visit, and reflect. This worked very well on my previous trip.

I will also experiment with some of the 21st century learning tools that I have incorporated in my class while I am on the trip. I will blog about my visits, record podcasts both to chronicle the visit and to be used by others as travel guides, and hopefully set up some contacts for future video conferencing with my students and
myself. Sharing my experiences will be one of the most beneficial aspects of the trip. I will gladly present my travels to the middle school faculty, the middle school as a whole, and anyone in the other two divisions. I also think that a group of parents would enjoy hearing about my travels.