Collaborative Projects in Education and Public History

I have been very lucky to be a part of a number of collaborative public history programs and university/school partnerships. I began working on history education projects when I was a graduate student. Following graduation, I wrote historical reports for two public history projects in Virginia. The first involved recovering the history of an African American School and the second explored the social history of Manassas National Battlefield from the 1840s to 1870s. As a faculty member at Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University, other projects have come my way. These have been funded by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources, the MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Below please find a selection of these programs.

Nature, Culture, and History at Grand Canyon: Funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant (2006-2010), this project partnered historians, geographers, artists, teachers, Native American tribal members, and Grand Canyon National Park rangers with the Grand Canyon Association to create educational products for the public. This included a website, audio tours, a DVD, a walking brochure, university classes, and traveling trunks packed with artifacts and curriculum for elementary and secondary classrooms. Environmental Historian Paul Hirt was the principal investigator on the program and I served as Co-investigator.

Northern Arizona History Academy Teaching American History Grant (NAHA TAH):This project has invigorated the teaching and learning of history in northern Arizona by linking local history with national and international themes and by engaging teachers and students in “doing history.” Funded by a one million dollar U. S. Department of Education Teaching American History grant (2010-2014), the program connects K-12 teachers with historians, history educators, archivists, library specialists, museum educators, and civic associations to increase teacher knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of American history. Raising student achievement and success is the ultimate goal. Part of our work on the grant has been the creation of the Inquiry in Teaching and Learning website. NAHA TAH is the last of many TAH grants that I have participated in. From 2003-2005, I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at NAU and my primary role was to serve as a teacher/mentor for Page, Arizona teachers through a TAH grant. After that, I worked on a variety of TAH projects in the Phoenix area.

Laurel Grove Baptist Church and School Restoration and Curriculum Project: In the 1990s, northern Virginia’s urban sprawl threatened to destroy three historical landmarks of an African-American community:  The Laurel Grove Colored School, Baptist Church, and Cemetery. Key individuals, however, blocked the developer’s bulldozer, formed the Laurel Grove School Association, and assured the continuation of Sunday services.  I worked with an interdisciplinary team of community members, curriculum experts, teachers, historians, and museum curators to recover the history of the school from oral histories and local archives, refurbish the classroom, and craft a history curriculum.  Today the school is a museum along the African-American heritage trail.

Doing the historical research on the school, we found that former slaves in northern Virginia erected this church and school in the 1880s. First the congregation and church trustees Middleton Braxton, George Carroll, Thornton Gray, and William Jasper focused on education. In 1881, Jasper, a former slave of William Hayward Foote of Hayfield Plantation, deeded one-half acre from his thirteen-acre farm to the segregated Virginia School system for $10.00. Community members hauled logs from nearby Carrolltown, built the schoolhouse, and found primers for the young scholars. In 1884, the Jaspers deeded another half-acre to construct the sanctuary. Alexandria, Virginia pastor L.W. Brooks occasionally led worship services and Sunday School classes. Situating the buildings by a grove of laurel bushes, Laurel Grove Baptist Church and School were fitting names.

iCivics: in 2008-2009, I joined a group of education experts, law professors, and digital game designers at Arizona State University, Georgetown University, and private companies to create video games to teach young people about the American judicial system. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor initiated the project. I played a small role in the development of the initial games that were created for the site, but learned much from the experience and my colleagues.