A team of scholars at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are working to transform history and civics education in Nebraska’s K-12 public schools.
Patrick Jones, associate professor of history and ethnic studies, is leading the charge to re-create History Harvest as an applicable learning vehicle in K-12 classrooms.
The History Harvest began in 2010 at Nebraska, under the direction of Jones and William G. Thomas, professor of history. It is a college course held each year that culminates in a community “harvest” where the public is invited to bring and share their historical artifacts to be documented, cataloged and digitally archived by undergraduate students.
The History Harvest course has spread to other colleges and universities around the United States, but has not yet been incorporated at the K-12 level. The team is in its first year of a three-year grant from the Humanities Without Walls Consortium to develop the curriculum, digital toolbox and a teacher institute to introduce the History Harvest concept in Lincoln Public Schools.
Underwood, who is a pursuing his doctorate in education, said the History Harvest can be a great fit in K-12 classrooms.
“It gives students a chance to produce historical documents and an opportunity to be producers of historical record, not just consumers,” Underwood said.
And it’s part of a field students understand and are already immersed in.
“Students have iPads and laptops in the classroom,” Garcia, a graduate student in history, said. “It makes sense to teach them how to use digital skills to catalog and record history.”
Fifteen LPS teachers – five from elementary schools, five from middle schools and five from high schools – will be recruited to attend the summer institute in 2019 with a commitment to introduce the pilot project in their respective schools during the 2019-2020 academic year.
Already, the team has met with LPS teachers, and are excited to host the summer institute to introduce the curriculum.
“The idea really resonates with teachers, based on the feedback we’ve been getting,” Johnson said. “History harvest is a really interesting approach to doing a community-based history project, where students are also learning new technical skills.”
Both Johnson and Jones said the project can also instill a sense of community in students, which is much-needed in the current divisive climate.
“We do see this as an opportunity for students to become more knowledgeable and appreciate more the richness of the communities that they live in,” Johnson said. “There are stories to tell, and many of those stories are fascinating.”
Jones said the timing for this project is ideal from a policy-making standpoint as well.
“Right now, Nebraska as a state is revisiting these requirements in public education,” Jones said. “We’re in a moment of transformation for historical learning, social studies and civics education and the history harvest gives a unique, pedagogical approach.
“Our hope is that after we’ve introduced it to LPS, we can show Nebraska educators that it works and can be included in statewide curriculum.”
As part of the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Nebraska team will also work with similar teams at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Michigan State University during workshops where they will discuss the results of the local projects and prepare for joint presentations of their ideas. The group intends, as well, to share its applications and model curricula through journal publications and open educational resources.