Tag Archives: professional development

Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

na art museumThe following is a guest post written by Bonnie Thomas.  Bonnie is the Manager, Education Programs and Resources at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO.

“School subjects are like individual rectangles, the teacher explained. And this long, curved line represents the arts and humanities, linking concepts and modes of thinking across disciplines.”

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painting creditsThis teacher, speaking in front of a vibrant geometric painting by the artist Robert Mangold, was one of 15 participants in a partnership project dedicated to exploring how art museums can support humanities education in public schools. Her comments emerged during a reflection activity in which teachers chose an artwork to represent their experience in the partnership project. Many other participants made similar comments, pointing out newly recognized connections between classroom subjects and visual art.

These teachers had first gathered several months previously at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, an encyclopedic art museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The Nelson-Atkins, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was seeking teachers’ input on how its strong collection of American art could be leveraged to strengthen student learning in American history and related social studies topics.

Continue reading Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

A TOP Experience

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Selfie at the Brandenburg Gate.

We all know that travel can enrich our teaching, provide us with experiences that we bring back to our students to will help them to better grasp historical events and far flung locales. This fall I’m bringing Germany back to my students.

Mid-July and hot as an oven outside with just under a month until we report back for another school year. Hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with your family and probably too the opportunity to partake of some professional development. If you stayed close to home I bet you checked out a Kansas Impact Institute, #ksedcamp and/or Podstock.  If you decided to go a little farther afield you likely spent a week or three with the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Gilder-Lehrman, or any number of programs provided by foundations and museums around the country.

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This summer, I had the honor of being selected a TOP Fellow. If you haven’t heard of the Transatlantic Outreach Program, please check them out; if you’ve attended one of their workshops or their reception at NCSS – you need to apply! TOP sends six groups of educators to Germany every summer for two week tours that are truly extraordinary. Every tour is tailored to the interests of the selected educators and lovingly crafted by one of the TOP employees who will guide your trip. Continue reading A TOP Experience

The George Washington Teacher Institute- A Great Opportunity for Teachers!

The following is a guest post from Doing Social Studies contributor Joe Zlatnik, an 8th grade Social Studies teacher at Basehor-Linwood Middle School


Professional development, for most of us, occurs in our own building and districts, and, in my experience, is not usually planned with social studies teachers in mind. The professional development I have been involved with is usually very general and is rarely specific to what I teach. While this is unfortunate, the burden on school administrators planning professional development opportunities is understandable. STEM subjects and reading are the major priorities of the state of Kansas, and school districts follow suit. Considering the shrinking budgets across the state, there is less and less available for content-specific professional development, especially for Social Studies teachers.

While this is certainly a disappointing reality, there are incredible opportunities available for those who seek them out. Conferences, such as KCSS and NCSS, are great opportunities to network and learn from some of the best Social Studies teachers from around the state and country. There are also a number of opportunities available during the summer for teachers who seek to grow as a professional.

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to take part in the George Washington Teacher Institute at the our first President’s beloved estate, Mt. Vernon. This five-day, four-night residential professional development program focused on the leadership and legacy of George Washington, and the lessons that we can derive from him and his experiences. Dr. Denver Brunsman of George Washington University led the institute. We also had opportunities to collaborate with Mt. Vernon’s historians, curators, educational experts, and the fellow teachers taking part in the institute.

Continue reading The George Washington Teacher Institute- A Great Opportunity for Teachers!

Don Gifford’s monthly KSDE update and opportunities

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Once a month or so, Don Gifford, social studies consultant at the Kansas Department of Education, shoots out an email with all sorts of updates, resources, and learning opportunities. Pick and choose what best fits your needs!

1. Start by heading to this Google Doc with all sorts of professional learning opportunities.

Then be sure to check out these other PD options: Continue reading Don Gifford’s monthly KSDE update and opportunities

10 things you can do this week that will make you a better social studies teacher

Best PracticeOver the last few months, I’ve been working with a variety of different teacher groups in a variety of different places. But all of the conversations have somehow shifted back to the same basic compelling question:

What does an effective teacher look like?

It’s a great question to ask. We’ve always paid lip service to professional development and learning but it seems as if only recently has the question been taken seriously. The Common Core literacy standards for history and the newly revised Kansas history/government standards are demanding more from our kids – and from us.

So I started thinking about things we can do to get better as social studies teachers. Not stuff organized by our administrators. Informal sorts of things that can make us more effective. I came up with ten. There’s gotta be more.

What would you add? Subtract from the list? Continue reading 10 things you can do this week that will make you a better social studies teacher