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New Program Helps Teachers Bring History of World War I to Life

From guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Teachers and students alike will have the chance to see World War I history in a new light thanks to a new teacher-scholar program aimed at developing engaging and innovative lesson plans to be distributed to classrooms across the nation. The collaboration, called the Transatlantic Teacher Scholars Program: Change over Time and Place in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, will draw focus to the details of this oft-forgotten war's rich history.

The program, through a partnership that brings together the American Battle Monuments Commission with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech, selected 12 middle and high school teachers from North Carolina and Virginia to participate. The educators will work with education experts from the two universities plus Sweet Briar College to develop a hands-on curriculum based around the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in Verdun, France.

"We have a lot of different teachers from a lot of different backgrounds to help identify the most useful format that other teachers will want," said Andy Mink, executive director of LEARN NC, which serves as the primary professional development center for the school of education at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The collaboration was made possible through a contract award of over $350,000 from the American Battle Monuments Commission, a federal agency established by Congress to manage the United States' overseas military cemeteries, memorials, monuments, and markers.

The "experiential professional development program" will provide resources and support for the teachers to develop lessons grounded in best practices. Emerging instructional technologies, such as geospatial software and augmented reality, will be incorporated to enhance the interactive curriculum for students that will foster a deeper understanding of historical events.

"It's different than students seeing [the cemetery] in their imaginations. In those 14,000 headstones, there's a lot of individual stories," said Mink. "We can reanimate them through these technologies."

In addition to two in-person retreats, the teachers will work online remotely throughout the year to take professional development courses focused on content and skills training and to interact with one another. The teachers will visit this site at the end of the collaboration in May to test and tailor the new curriculum.

"We want to create a curriculum, but we also want to transform teachers," said Mink. "We want them to be heard and be a part of these projects, to create a community of people producing innovative new work."

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