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Visiting UGA history education professor showcases online teacher resources

  |   Kathryn Kao   |   Permalink   |   Kudos,   Schools and Administrators

New lesson plans developed through a partnership with the University of Georgia College of Education and the T.R.R. Cobb House will give middle school teachers easy access to historic resources on Georgia's pre-Civil War era.

Ranging in topics from motives of Southern secession to elite women during the secession debates, most of the lesson plans feature several source materials, first-person accounts, maps and other resources for history teachers to use in the classroom. The source materials came from archives in Athens' historic T.R.R. Cobb House as well as the extensive collection at UGA's Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

"All the work we're doing is sort of behind the scenes to help teachers engage their students," said Bruce VanSledright, a visiting research scholar at the UGA College of Education and a professor at the University of North Carolina- Charlotte. "And I think it's much appreciated."

VanSledright taught the 14 UGA students who designed the lesson plans in a special class that also served as the first extended course-like collaboration between the Cobb House and the College. These lesson plans give teachers from the Clarke County School District and beyond a rare chance to access these historical texts quickly and efficiently.

All 11 lesson plans are accessible on the Cobb House's website for teachers to download and customize.

The new lesson plans were unveiled earlier this month at the Cobb House. Around a dozen middle school history teachers gathered to discuss ways to use the lessons to teach Georgia's secession debates.

Sponsored by a grant from Georgia Humanities, the professional learning event was also webcast to a wider audience and showcased the results of last summer's intensive two-week course at the Cobb House. The teachers then shared feedback on the lesson plans and agreed that the documents and materials were helpful, since finding historic Georgia-specific source materials can be tedious.

During the event, the teachers also suggested building new lesson plans featuring other historical events and figures, such as the Confederate flag, Alexander Stephens, the Reconstruction period, the Trail of Tears and Andrew Jackson.

With the help of several organizations and institutions, including the University of Georgia, the Watson-Brown Foundation, Georgia Humanities and the Cobb House, VanSledright and Sam Thomas, director of the Cobb House, plan to start the research process soon. They again plan to use the Hargrett Library and the Cobb House for source materials.

VanSledright intends to follow up with the same group of teachers later this year to assess the usefulness of these lesson plans. Their feedback will determine future modifications or improvements.

"Since these lesson plans were created for practicing teachers, we know they fit into the Georgia social studies curriculum and that teachers will actually use them," he said. "It's a really valuable project."

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