WMU Home > About WMU > WMU News

WMU News

Grant helps area teachers improve history instruction

Jan. 3, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's Department of History has received a second Teaching American History Grant of nearly $1 million to help teachers improve U.S. history instruction in southwestern Michigan.

"This is a big grant, and we're one of only a handful of institutions in the nation to have received it more than once," says Dr. Wilson Warren, WMU associate professor of history. "It's truly a mark of distinction for the University."

The three-year grant is part of the "Teaching American History Initiative" developed by West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd and administered by the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of the initiative, which is in its fifth year, is to improve the teaching of U.S. history at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

WMU's first Teaching American History Grant, a three-year, $986,000 award received in 2003, targets high school instruction while this year's grant totals $993,000 over three years and targets middle school instruction. The University won both grants in partnership with KRESA--the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency--and several Michigan public history institutions.

Warren, who is directing both grant projects, says they support summer institutes for area teachers taught by WMU history faculty as well as public history partners from the community. About 100 high school teachers will have participated in the institutes when the first grant project concludes next summer. Another 75 middle school teachers are slated to participate in the three institutes that will be funded under the 2005 grant.

Each summer, 25 to 30 teachers are selected to attend the institutes, which are open to teachers interested in improving their American history instruction. However, Warren notes that with the new teacher qualification standards that require teachers to be "highly qualified" under the No Child Left Behind Act, emphasis is placed on enrolling teachers who are either working on their certification in history or who have recently started teaching history.

Teachers attending the institutes receive "authentic" historical training.

"This teaching method engages students in learning by involving them in hands-on activities that focus on actual artifacts from the historical time periods being taught rather than on more traditional teaching methods such as lectures or worksheets," Warren explains.

"Too often, students see history as a catalog of facts without much relevance. Authentic learning allows them to see connections and develop critical thinking skills. They're able to discover things for themselves--just like in science class when they go into the laboratory and perform experiments."

WMU history faculty who will work on the 2005 grant project along with Warren will be Professor John Saillant, Assistant Professor Lynne Heasley and Associate Professor Mitch Kachun.

Partnering with the University from the community will be historians and museum educators from the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Kalamazoo; Sojourner Truth Institute in Battle Creek, Mich.; and Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Also involved are personnel from KRESA and WMU's Department of Teaching Learning and Leadership.

The major community partner for the 2003 grant project is KRESA. WMU history faculty working on the project in addition to Warren are Associate Professor Nora Faires, Professor Fred Dobney and Visiting Instructor Patricia Rogers.

Information about applying for the 2006 through 2008 summer institutes for middle school teachers is available by calling KRESA's Lynne Cowart, assistant superintendent for instruction, at (269) 385-1500. For more information about the Teaching American History Grant, contact Dr. Wilson Warren at (269) 387-4644 or wilson.warren@wmich.edu.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400