Monday, July 27, 2009

2009 CWPT Teacher Institute: Fredericksburg, VA -Part 1

Last year I attended the CWPT's Teacher Institute in Hagerstown, Maryland, and I was so impressed with all the learning opportunities and information shared among educators that I promised myself that I would do everything I could to get to the one in 2009. Well, after just returning from this year's event, I'm pleased to say that I was just as impressed this year.

Friday's schedule included a warm welcome by CWPT CEO Ron Cogswell, a review of the newly enhanced CWPT website, and a wonderfully inspiring talk by renowned Civil War historian and professor Dr. James Robertson from Virginia Tech. Dr. Robertson's commitment to Civil War education is second to none as witnessed by his long term profesorship at Tech and the number of educational endeavors that he constantly contributes material toward. Lunch and Dr. Robertson's talk was followed by three breakout sessions.

My first session was "African American Leadership During the Civil War Era: Using Primary Sources to Create First Person Narratives," and was presented by LaNesha DeBardelaben. Ms. DeBardelaben, like me, works with Teaching American History Grants. I especially enjoyed her sharing the idea of students creating a "bio-poem" to learn more and make connections with historical figures. She also spoke about using the acronym SOAPSTone to analyze historical speeches. S is for subject of the speech, O-what is the occasion of the speech?, A-who is the audience?, P-what is the purpose of the speech?, S-who is the speaker?, T-what is the tone of the speech? And, then it is important to look at what is any impact the speech made - immediately or years later. She also performed a short monologue of Sojourner Truth, as an illustration of how performances can enhance learning.

The second session was on "Local Civil War History: How to Use Your Local History to Learn About and Teach the Civil War." Dr. Stephen Rockenback from Virginia State University spoke about the advantages of using local history to not only get students interested, but also show the complexity of the Civil War. He used his personal research on two communities (Frankfort, Kentucky and Corydon, Indiana) to illustrate his points. These two communities one in a free state and the other in a slave state, but both in the border region make for some interesting comparisons. Letters, newspapers (an great source in this type of study), memoirs, county histories, and census records all can help frame a community. He also suggested that those that didn't have a local community in the Civil War, say Utah, to pick one that did and research it.

The third and final session of the day was, "Math and the Civil War: Using Graphs, Charts and Statistics to Lean About the Civil War." Dr. James Paradis first gave background information on the 6th United States Colored Troops and then show how with computer programs and mathematical procedures students can take quantifiable information from the service records of any Civil War regiment and draw conclusions from that information. For example, most soldiers' service records give their height, eye color, hair color, place of birth, age, and occupation among other information. That information can then be transferred into usable statistical measures to find the mean, median, and mode of those descriptors for the regiment. It can then be shown in pie, bar, line, or other types of graphs to make the information more understandable.

All of the session information was made available to the educators on a resource CD. Resource work books were provided by CWPT for taking additional notes as well. The CD contains not only the information that the presenters offered, but also additional information and lesson plans that past teachers have found successful and submitted for other educators to use.

My next post will deal with Saturday's field trip to Fredericksburg National Battlefield and Sunday's class sessions.

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