Mention the word "history" to elementary school students, and you are likely to see their eyes glaze over as visions of dusty 20-pound textbooks fill their heads. But that could be changing, thanks to Elise Fillpot (a Ph.D. candidate in the UI College of Education's Policy and Leadership Studies program), and a $701,133 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Fillpot, who lives in Iowa City, received the grant for her "Bringing History Home" project. A collaboration between the University of Iowa, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, and teachers in the Washington, Iowa School District, "Bringing History Home" incorporates historical documents, letters, artifacts, games, and more, into lesson plans. Fillpot was inspired to develop the program when she learned that her daughter's elementary school curriculum, like many across the U.S., did not include history.
"Bringing History Home" not only teaches history, it brings it to life. Fillpot describes the method as "a direct encounter with history." Rather than simply reading from a textbook, students pore over firsthand accounts of soldiers who fought in the Civil War or sing songs from the Great Depression. Local history lessons give them a greater sense of their own community's past.
Fillpot will use the grant funds to develop the curriculum and make it available to teachers around the country via the Internet. "Everyone who's come into contact with 'Bringing History Home' has been excited about the concept," she says "We hope that this program will jump-start greater interest in history instruction at the elementary level."