As an educator, you can’t make important classroom decisions in a vacuum.
In Research History, I always try to interject a healthy dose of diversity into my curriculum, but not just because of the rich and invaluable context it adds to my lesson plans. You see, the State of Ohio has the following stats to report when it comes to the demographic make-up of my rural school district:
.7% Hispanic, 1% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2.8% Black/Non-Hispanic, 3.6% Multi-Racial and 91.9% Caucasian/Non-Hispanic.
Because diversity doesn’t necessarily jump out at us from the window of our classroom, I feel like integrating it into our projects is something that I simply must do whenever possible.
That’s why I make the choices that I do. It’s also why I think now – as we leave Black History Month, enter Women’s History Month, and prepare for the many others in line on the calendar – is the perfect time to reflect on the “how” factor.
Since I started my class in 1998, my students and I have work on several hands-on projects (you know that’s my thing) that not only teach important history lessons, but carry equally important messages about people and the human experience. For example, I invite you all to explore the lesson plans that I developed for my most recent partnership with the History Channel and their Take a Vet to School Day program. While the idea is to tell the stories of our country’s African-American soldiers, the lesson can and should be used as a model to tell the stories of women service members and their peers from different ethnic backgrounds.
Over the years, former Research History students have also developed an Emancipation Day website (my students researched and asked the State of Ohio to designate September 22 as our official Emancipation Day), conducted an archeological project at the Gist Settlement, created an online catalogue of the burials of African-American soldiers throughout our state, and learned (and then conveyed in their own words) inspiring stories about the Freedom Fighters.
All of these projects have given my students the opportunity to preserve cultural diversity in our community, even if it’s not always apparent to the naked eye. In the same way, I encourage all teachers to get inspired and to look beyond their classroom windows when penning their own lesson plans.
- Paul LaRue
Paul LaRue teaches Research History at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. The ultimate “hands-on” classroom experience, his course takes students into the field to learn about preservation and community service. Stay tuned this semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, keep an eye out for future “Notes from the Teacher’s Desk” columns from Paul himself.
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