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Teaching the Hudson Valley: looking back and looking forward

Teachers at THV 2013 Institute. Photo: NPS, Bill Urbin

Teachers at THV 2013 Institute. Photo: NPS, Bill Urbin

(This is a guest-written blog about Teaching the Hudson Valley. It was written by classroom educator Shaun Boyce in response to Christina Ritter’s article about the THV program in our Spring 2013 issue of The Hudson River Valley Review.)

As a beneficiary of the offerings at the Teaching the Hudson Valley program, I can attest to their usefulness, and share Ritter’s enthusiasm for its programming. The online resources are educator-developed and highly relevant. I have had the privilege of using these resources as I teach at Arlington High School and Marist College.

The summer institutes have been particularly interesting. Teachers often don’t get much time to network, so I have made valuable contacts that have helped me in the classroom. For instance, after an inspirational workshop on the Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project, I approached Vassar College Professor Rebecca Edwards and asked if the singers from her project would be willing to perform my local history students at Arlington High School. My students were awed by the Professor Edwards and her colleagues who regaled my students with several abolitionist songs. In between each song, she shared the historical background of each piece of music. One of my colleagues who stopped by to listen remarked that it was one of the most interesting things that he has seen in his several years in teaching.

As we move toward implementing the Common Core, it has also become very important for primary and secondary educators to attend these kinds of summer sessions. Since there are opportunities for Q and A during workshops, I have been able to learn more about the many concerns that elementary teachers have about how we are going to meet these standards, prepare students for tests, and still ensure that our students are interested and engaged. These conversations may help assist school districts as they labor to vertically integrate their curricula.

During the 2010 institute attendees were able to listen to Dr. David Sobel speak about the benefits of a placed-based education. Fish are the last to discover water, so my students simply underestimate the historical importance of the Hudson River Valley. When I am able to weave the stories of what happened here into the tapestry of American history, my students actually pay attention.

Using the new ideas that I picked up at the summer institute, I was able to create a local history curriculum for high school students called “Hudson River Heritage.” We studied topics ranging from Native American life, the colonial period and American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. Guest speakers included archaeologists Tom Lake and Wendy Harris, Bernie Rudberg from the Hopewell Junction depot restoration, and members of the Mid-Hudson Anti-Slavery Project. As a capstone project, my students interviewed Mr. and Mrs. George Wade. Mr. Wade grew up on a farm adjacent to Arlington High School and was able to share some interesting experiences with my students.

Finally, students may also benefit from field trips that may be funded through the Teaching the Hudson Valley “Explorer Awards.” Field trip money is hard to come by, so teachers who are creative enough may be able to stitch together enough to fund their activities.

Although teachers are very busy with all of the changes that currently confront them, they may wish to spend the time to peruse the online resources or attend the summer institute. They won’t be sorry that they did!


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