Today’s post is written by Cheney, Kansas middle and high social studies teacher Jill Weber. Jill is the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year.
Sometimes it all goes right. Thursday morning I didn’t think the day was going to turn out. It was just one of those rough mornings. Bad news and frustrations everywhere I looked. Before class started, I thought
Man, I’m gonna really have to fake-it-to-make-it today.
But then class started, and we got rolling with our topic and activity. By the end of my first block I knew I wasn’t gonna have to “fake it.” Today was AWESOME!
And it was made possible by the Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) activity I found using Stanford History Education Group. If you aren’t using SHEG in your classes . . . get on it! Seriously one of the best resources out there for incorporating and teaching with primary sources.
The SAC provides a controversial questions, documents for research, and the procedure for students to participate in small group debates. Students learn how to argue with evidence! And middle school students LOVE to argue!
About 200 social studies teachers from around the state made their way to the Old Town Conference Center in downtown Wichita last Sunday and Monday for the annual state conference. If you were there, you know this already.
If you were not there . . . well, you missed a lot of social studies awesome. Seriously. Make plans for next year. Great conversations. Great learning. Great networking. Great food. Great people.
We know that Kansas does social studies a bit differently. Ever since 2013, when the latest state standards document was released, teachers in the state are being asked to focus on five major themes and historical thinking skills rather than just teaching a bunch of dates and places. It’s the balance between process and knowledge that we’re after.
But doing things differently also extends to our state level conference. It seems that in most other states, the different social studies organizations host their own conferences. Econ here. Geo there. History somewhere else. Here in Kansas?
The four major social studies groups – the Kansas Council for Economic Education, the Kansas Council for History Education, the Kansas Council for the Social Studies, and the Kansas Geographic Alliance – all work together to host one conference a year. With the support and encouragement of the Kansas Department of Education, this makes it easier for K-12 teachers to find us all in the same place and increases the cumulative social studies goodness.
As Kansas teachers, some of us are in our last week of school, others (like myself) still have another week to go. I’d like to wish all of you the smoothest possible finale to your year.
That said, once you have a chance to catch up on your sleep and spend some long overdue time with your loved ones, I have a request to make. I’d like to encourage you to work your civics muscle. We’re social studies teachers and since the civics engagement/government stuff is part of why we got into this content in the first place, I’m guessing you already keep up with what’s going on in Topeka and DC. The fact remains that we are busy professionals with personal lives and it gets hard to keep up with everything. If you have the opportunity this summer to attend a town hall or otherwise contact your Senators and Representatives, please do. Here’s a little on what KCSS has been doing and some sources for what else is happening with education funding.
Last week, the Kansas Council for the Social Studies signed onto a letter with 140 other organizations, urging the continued funding of ESSA Title II-A. The proposed Trump budget would eliminate these funds which assist with funds for teacher training and quality.
Pre-Service teachers are getting into the game and classroom teachers can benefit. The HGSS undergraduates at KU have a thriving student chapter of the National Council for the Social Studies – the Kansas University Council for the Social Studies (KUCSS) – and they’ve been using their powers for good.
KUCSS has partnered with the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, Kansas to create instructional materials for middle and high school social studies teachers. The Dole Institute of Politics has launched an online exhibit commemorating Dole and his service in WWII which resulted in a debilitating injury that would later largely shape his work as a Senator resulting in the Americans with Disabilities Act (1995).
If you’d like to read more about the collection and their collaboration with KUCSS you can check out the full article here.
And if you haven’t taken the opportunity to visit the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence it’s well worth a trip. Heck, make an I-70 road trip of it: start at the Eisenhower Presidential Center in Abilene, hit the Dole Institute, and then on to Liberty, Missouri for the Truman Presidential Library and Museum – just imagine all the government fun!
I had the great fortune several weeks ago of attending the Council for State Social Studies Specialists (CS4) and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) annual conferences, this year held in Boston. I always look forward to this event as it is the only time I get the opportunity to meet up with state social studies supervisors (people in my job) from around the nation.