TTU professors take regional history teachers on field trip to Philadelphia

A group of Upper Cumberland history teachers spent the first week of 2006 surrounded by “brotherly love” in the city that’s known for it — Philadelphia.

The four-day, three-night trip was sponsored by the Cumberland Plateau Consortium Teaching American History, a partnership between Tennessee Tech University’s history department and the White County Board of Education.

Created with a three-year grant for nearly $1 million from the United States Department of Education, the consortium provides no-cost professional development opportunities — including two-week summer institutes at TTU — to history teachers in the region.

“The goal of the Philadelphia trip was to reward teachers for their participation in the first year of the Teaching American History federal grant programs and to allow them to attend the national conference of the American History Association,” said Michael Birdwell, TTU assistant professor of history and the project director.

“Middle or high school teachers spend an average of $400 out of their own pockets each year for classroom expenses, so maybe some of the materials and information we present will help defray some of those personal costs,” he continued.

The grant programs, including the Philadelphia trip, offer such materials as primary source documents, books and videos that can be used to enhance classroom experiences.

A book exhibit at the AHA, for instance, offered free or inexpensive classroom materials, and a special tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art provided a poster and teacher’s guide for introducing art into the classroom.

Among the other attractions the teachers saw while they were in Philadelphia included Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Constitution Center (which featured a special Benjamin Franklin exhibit, in honor of the 300th anniversary of his birth), the Edgar Allan Poe house, the Second Bank of the United States and Old City Tavern, a dining room of which is a former apartment of George Washington.

“The things we saw and did on this trip will enhance some of my own classes, so I know by experience that each and every one of the participating teachers will be able to bring something beneficial into their classrooms as well,” Birdwell said.

Jeff Roberts, chairperson of TTU’s history department, who handled arrangements for the group, agreed, saying, “I’d never before been to Philadelphia, and I was not only impressed by the city itself but by the specific historical attractions we saw while we were there. I’ll be able to add some new elements to my classes as a result of this trip.”

In addition, the consortium’s recent spring mini-institutes have had record enrollment in spite of space being limited to only 25 or 30 participants per workshop. Workshop topics included World War I hero Alvin C. York, Native American history and the American Revolution.

Two summer institutes, limited to only 15 participants each, will deal with the Civil War and Reconstruction and the Cold War and contemporary history.

Teachers who participated in the Philadelphia trip include Brenda Moore and Wendy Simmons of Bledsoe County; Doris Mullinix of Fentress County; Henry Camp of Sequatchie County; Susan Carter, Jodi Dennis and Craig Taylor, all of Putnam County; and Janet Smith and Kirsty Young of White County.

For more information about the consortium, its summer institutes or any of its other programs, call the TTU history department at 931/372-3332.

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