Recent News

Bringing History Home 2011-12

November 15, 2011 - 11:09 AM

Bringing History Home is now in all K-5 classrooms in the Cedar Rapids CSD and Prairie College Community ISD!   We're excited to see the student learning in these districts over the coming years as teachers introduce the SOCC method to their children.  SOCC gives students a simple process for analyzing visual and written historical evidence.  As they become proficient with the model, children's general information literacy skills and analytic thinking skills should also be developed and enhanced.  The BHH leadership will be seeking ways to assess the extent of this learning during the 2011-12 school year. 

2011 Summer Workshops

July 6, 2011 - 3:26 PM

Bringing History Home is off and running to help teachers bring history to their classrooms in the 2011-12 school year.  On June 13-16, we conducted three 2-day workshops.  More than 150 elementary teachers from Cedar Rapids CSD and Central City CSD attended.  While project director Elise Fillpot, assistant director Kim Heckart and project historian Catherine Denial led the whole group activities, eighteen teacher mentors from Prairie ISD and CRCSD led lengthy grade-level sessions in which they shared how to do history where the rubber hits the road; that is, in the actual K-5 classrooms.   Huge thanks to the BHH mentor team!!

We're excited for the next round of workshops coming up on August 1-4.  It will be another great week dedicated to stretching the boundaries of what children can do when they study history with rigor and integrity.

The Bringing History Home 2011 Mentor Team:

Joan Viet

Lauren Stark

Catherine Metz

Nicole Greazel

Cher McAllister

Kathy Severson

Susie Stark

Jennifer Schaffer

Jennifer Klekar

Mary Beth Wagemester

Amanda Tieskotter

Stephanie Stulken

Teresa Drtina

Angela Patterson

Josie Norton

Tracy Woodell

Catherine Metz

Susie Stark

Kathy Severson



Reviews of BHH Lesson Plans on the NHEC

August 5, 2010 - 11:29 AM

The National History Education Clearinghouse has reviewed two Bringing History Home units. The reviews assess the BHH First Grade unit My History at School and Fourth Grade unit The Progressive Era for alignment with the Clearinghouse's criteria for determining the quality of U.S. History lesson plans. 


BHH in College History Classrooms!

July 14, 2010 - 4:07 PM

Dr. Catherine Denial of Knox College has been the BHH lead historian since the project began nine years ago.   She uses the BHH Five Processes in her own classes at Knox, and has now provided descriptions and examples of her strategies for teaching history at the college level.  We're excited about this resource for history TA's, new faculty, and seasoned historians seeking to invigorate their teaching and engage students in history as an interpretive, evidence-based discipline.  It may also be a helpful resource for TAH grant directors and guest historians as they plan professional development for K-12 teachers. 

Thank you, Dr. Denial!


Bringing History Home in 2010

June 9, 2010 - 2:05 PM

BHH teachers began a new year and continued exploring history with their students.


BHH director Elise Fillpot attended the annual Technical Advisory Group meeting for the National History Education Clearinghouse.

Santa Fe teachers in Grades 3-6 explored the BHH Five Processes in a workshop funded by TAH. 


The University of Iowa Center for Evaluation and Assessment designed assessments for the BHH 5th grade pilot of a unit on the Columbian Exchange.  The unit was adapted by BHH staff and teachers from National Endowment for the Humanities Edsitement lessons titled "What was Columbus Thinking?"


Kyle Longley, Snell Family Dean's Professor of History at Arizona State University, led a two-day Grant Wood History Institute workshop for middle and high school teachers on the Vietnam War. 

In a session at the American Education Research Association annual conference, distinguished Social Studies and History education faculty Keith Barton, Linda Levstik, Kelly Woestman, Jack Zevin and David Gerwin analyzed and discussed classroom video footage of BHH lead mentor Kim Heckart leading a discussion during one of her predict and infer units. 


Elizabeth Ridgway, Library of Congress Director of Educational Outreach, and her colleague Anne Savage visited Prairie Ridge Elementary School to observe Kim teaching 3rd grade history via her predict and infer model.

5th and 6th grade teachers in Anchorage, Alaska explored the BHH Five Processes during the annual Anchorage School District Summer Academy. 


140 Cedar Rapids teachers will attend their first BHH workshop.


60 Prairie ISD and 18 Cedar Rapids teachers will attend their second BHH workshop.

Kim Heckart travels to Boston with teacher participants in the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education TAH grant.   When they return to Illinois, Kim will help the teachers use BHH strategies to design lessons based on their learning during the trip.


110 Cedar Rapids teachers will attend their first BHH workshop. 


BHH teachers begin a new school year.  First year teachers will implement their initial BHH unit.  Second year teachers will implement both BHH grade level units. 


Elise joins Sarah Brooks of UVA and Jason Endacott of Keene College for a National Council of the Social Studies College and University Faculty Assembly panel presentation on affective learning in history.   



BHH welcomes The Library of Congress!

May 11, 2010 - 10:09 AM

Elizabeth Ridgway, Director of Education Outreach for the U.S. Library of Congress, and Anne Savage, Education Resource Specialist for the LOC, travel to Cedar Rapids this week to observe Kim Heckart's Predict and Infer model in action.  For the visit, Kim is teaching a new predict and infer mini-unit that incorporates visual and written sources on the early 20th century era of the women's suffrage movement.  The accompnaying read aloud for contextualization and connections is A Time For Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C. 1917 (Dear America Series) by Kathryn Lasky (2002).




New Predict and Infer Model

April 28, 2010 - 3:06 PM

We have added an exciting new instructional design to the website.  Kim Heckart's Predict and Infer model, piloted in 2009, engages children in emergent inquiry and sparks their motivation to read.  To explore this activity, Click here or use the Predict and Infer link in the General Resources view.

Cedar Rapids 2010 Workshops

April 9, 2010 - 1:04 PM

Welcome Cedar Rapids CSD teachers! Please click here for your Participant Application

GWHI Spring into Teaching 2010

April 1, 2010 - 9:40 AM

The Grant Wood History Institute invites all future and current history teachers to a very special event on April 17-18.  Please follow the link below for information:

A Professional Development Event for Future and Current History Teachers

BHH Summer Events

April 1, 2010 - 9:31 AM

Bringing History Home faculty and teacher mentors are excited about the full slate of workshops we have in the hopper for Summer 2010. 

Teachers at Prairie ISD in southeast Cedar Rapids and lead teachers for Cedar Rapids CSD have been implementing their first BHH units during the 2009-10 school year.  Their 2nd-year workshops are scheduled for July, and will be held again in the Prairie Ridge commons room.

July 26-27
1.  All Heights teachers
2.  Crest teachers -- Kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grades

July 28-29
1.  All View teachers
2.  Crest teachers -- 1st and 3rd grades
3.  Creek teachers -- 5th grade

All new Cedar Rapids CSD BHH teachers will begin the two-year workshop sequence this summer.  Their events are scheduled for June and August with locations to be determined.

June 14-15

June 16-17

August 2-3

August 4-5

If you are not a member of the Cedar Rapids school district but would like to attend or observe one of the first-year workshops, please contact Elise Fillpot for additional information. 





Watch Bringing History Home in action!

January 26, 2010 - 12:37 PM

If you've wondered what "doing history" might look like in the middle elementary grades, wonder no more.   BHH is now providing video examples of both individual students and entire classrooms exploring historic evidence and accounts. 

Throughout six weeks in the spring of 2009, Bringing History Home lead mentor Kim Heckart filmed her Iowa third grade class studying Industrialization.   This video archive offers an unprecedented and rich resource for teachers and researchers in history education.  Teaching strategies, students' historical thinking, examples of history heuristics and sociocultural tools identified in education scholarship...Kim's classroom footage includes vivid examples of many dimensions of history teaching and learning.

As we begin a new year, BHH students, teachers and staff are excited to share excerpts of this footage via the National History Education Clearinghouse website and the BHH Youtube channel.  Various video clips are already available for view on these venues.  During the coming months, BHH director Elise Fillpot will also be posting brief essays to highlight the examples of history teaching and learning that are illustrated in the excerpts.

As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts about, responses to and experiences with BHH resources.  And we extend a huge THANK YOU to those who created these BHH video this case, Jonathan Burian, our brilliant videographer and Youtube channel manager; and Kim Heckart, whose excellence and commitment to students and history learning are ever inspiring.

Iowa City West High students win Iowa state We the People competition

December 5, 2009 - 2:22 PM

Congratulations to the Iowa City West High We the People team!   After three months of dedicated study and preparation, the students participated in the Iowa state We the People Constitutional history competition, and won a berth to compete nationally next spring in Washington D.C.

The team's faculty leader, Gary Neuzil, has been a member of the Grant Wood History Institute since 2007.   His technology expertise, high spirits and unfailing support have been an indispensable part of that program, and he brought the same great qualities to mentoring his We the People team. 

Thank you, Gary.  You're an amazing advocate for history education. 

BHH sends out a bit WOOT! for your Constitutional history stars!

Postsecondary History and K-5 History

December 5, 2009 - 2:11 PM

It’s Elementary:
Focusing on History Teaching, K-5

In the November issue of Perspectives, the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association.



Classroom Conversation

October 16, 2009 - 1:54 PM

One of the courses I'm teaching this fall is First-Year Preceptorial - a class in which every first year student is enrolled.  Through three texts and a series of films with which everyone engages we consider the major global, economic, political, religious, and cultural questions that our students stand to inherit when they graduate, and explore the way in which the tools supplied by a liberal arts education can help them find the answers they'll need.  There are roughly twenty sections of FP a year, and each faculty member assigns their students other readings specific to their group.  The course aims to strike a balance between building a common experience for first year students, and allowing faculty flexibility in how they teach.

A month ago my FP students read an excerpt from Deborah Tannen's The Argument Culture, a 1998 book that explored the dynamics of antagonism in political, economic, and cultural speech.  Tannen spends a great deal of time focused on education, and the adversarial roots of most western systems through which knowledge is imparted, tested, and proved.  My students recognized their education in Tannen's words - recalled the formalized debates they'd been expected to enter into in history class, and the overarching goal of winning, not understanding, as their task.  They remembered English classes where people established themselves as intelligent by savaging authors, and civics courses where articulating the failures of government systems constituted the only meaningful measure of success.

Everyone talked in high school, my students suggested, but no one really listened.  I wondered how to be sure their college experienced would not be more of the same.

My challenge to the students was to come up with a better set of guidelines for the way we'd communicate in our class.  What would be acceptable, as we tried to learn about each other and our world, and what would not?  How would we deal with inflammatory topics and ensure our discussions were just?

This is what they decided:

1) Keep an open mind.

2) Respect each other, and each other's ideas.

3) Be aware of emotional distress, your own and others'.  Know your limits.

4) Be willing to communicate your feelings about the way a discussion is unfolding.

5) Extend the benefit of the doubt to each other.  If someone says something with which you disagree, or that makes you angry and uncomfortable, ask, "Why did you say that?" or something similar.  Don't assume the worst, but do insist that people take responsibility for their words.

6) Don't make assumptions about each other, or why someone holds a given belief.

7) Participate.  Listen; allow time for people to respond; reflect on what others are saying; ask questions; be prepared for class (mentally and physically); find a method of staying engaged that works for you; acknowledge other people as they speak.

8) Don't take things personally.

9) Remember we are all from different places and were raised in different ways.  Value these differences.

10) Remember that discussion is not a competition.

11) Allow expansiveness of discussion.  We are not only interested in "facts" but in theories, ideas, and possibilities.

12) Think before you speak.

13) Don't hold grudges.  Every new class period is a new beginning.

14) What happens in FP stays in FP.  Respect the trust placed in you when others share something difficult or personal, and keep it confidential.

15) Have courage.

A month later and the guidelines are firmly in place in our classroom.  We reference them frequently - especially the last - and my students have not raised their voices (except in warm, well-placed laughter), or shut each other down, or approached discussion as something they might win, or taken offense at another's words.  We've navigated the slings and arrows of Malcolm X, of Kwame Appiah's Cosmopolitanism, of conversation about Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism and Voodoo - and in each instance we've listened, considered other points of view, reflected, and we have into a delightfully messy host of ideas.

My students, in essence, have taught me how to talk.  I'm looking forward to asking my other classes what their guidelines for conversation will be.

Teaching Across the Curriculum

August 22, 2009 - 11:57 AM

Over the past couple of years, the college at which I work has become more and more focused on issues of sustainability.  There have been numerous changes around campus - more recycling stations; a retrofitting of energy-efficient light bulbs; trays removed from the cafeteria; and the founding of a student-run community garden - but to date, the greatest share of teaching about sustainability has fallen to the faculty in Environmental Studies.

This week, twenty-two faculty members attended a two-day workshop to consider ways of integrating the principles of sustainability into our curriculum.  We came from a dozen departments and programs - Biology, Dance, Classics, Computer Science, Creative Writing, Economics, History, Journalism, Modern Languages, Political Science, Physics, and Psychology (as well as our colleagues from Environmental Studies).  Through readings, speakers, spirited discussion, and collaborative workshops, we each worked to create an assignment we might use in an existing course, meeting both the goals of our discipline and our college-wide commitment to teach our students to be stewards of the world.

Layering the skills and subjects that our students learn in a single class period is common to almost all teachers.  Part of my job, for example, is to teach my students to become better writers in every class they take.  Elementary school teachers perhaps face this challenge even more acutely - it's hard to find time to teach social studies when No Child Left Behind puts such pressure on schools to improve reading and math scores above all else.  Bringing History Home tackles this problem head on, working with teachers to enable them to meet their literacy goals through social studies - to have read-aloud books that reinforce historical thinking; to have students write about history as a way of learning vocabulary, sentence-structure, and organization.

I thought of this summer's fifth-grade teachers often during the sustainability workshop and their creativity in finding ways to teach literacy, science, and math goals using Columbus' 1493 letter to the King of Spain.  I needed a jolt of their creativity, since it was challenging for me to find a way to honor the importance of educating our students about sustainability while maintaining the values of my discipline.  While communities in the past grew and retracted according to their relationship with the natural world (which didn't always include respecting it - many cultures have tried to dominate their local environment, or harness resources in ways that, with hindsight, we can see were damaging) 'sustainability' is a twentieth-century concept.  'Sustainability,' as a movement, is also rooted in a specific time and place, and the principles we discussed in our workshop came out of a western framework of looking at the world.  Applying 'sustainability' to non-Western cultures - like the Arawak or Carib of the fifteenth-century Caribbean - seemed to be to be another instance of trying to make non-Western cultures bend to Western desires.  Handled badly, it could be colonialism all over again.

In the end I found a way to accommodate both the promises and pitfalls of consciously thinking about sustainability in the classroom.  In working with fifth-grade teachers this summer on Columbus' letter, I asked them to think about what Columbus' words told us about Europe, instead of the Caribbean; to consider how we learn about organization of Europe's cities, harbors, fields, and homes by the comparisons Columbus makes to what he sees in what - to him - is a new world.  I tweaked this idea just a little more to make an assignment for the students in Introduction to Latin American History:

What does The Columbus Letter of 1493 tell us about the natural resources most prized in Europe, and the way in which the social, political, economic, and religious systems of that region were determined by both the presence of those resources, and their lack?

I hope that in answering this question, my students will become more conscious of the way in which human societies choose to use the resources around them, and the way in which political events are often linked to the search for more of what a country or community deems necessary to support their way of life.  That's a transferable skill that will serve them well as they think about their own lifestyle, and the issues of sustainability that face us today.  Still, the question is rooted in the past, and asks students to think critically about a major shift in world events from within the context of that time.

My experience teaches me that we can reach untold combinations of goals in our teaching, provided we're given the time, intellectual support, and sometimes money necessary to make it happen.  I needed two days of intense discussion with my colleagues to figure out how to make this particular challenge work for me.  The same is often true of our Bringing History Home teachers, and it's a delight to be part of that process from a different perspective - to brainstorm with smart, inventive teachers how to have students compare the foodstuffs of the Caribbean and Europe to meet the science goal of 'understanding nutrition', or to consider if there are math goals we can reach by having students calculate the distance Columbus thought he had traveled with the actual distance he did.

At the heart of all of these challenges met is collaboration - collaboration between teachers of all levels, between mentors and new learners, between non-academic experts and students of every age.  Perhaps that is the greatest unexpected reward of any experience of teaching across the curriculum - the sense that we are part of a team, and can rely on one another's creativity and imagination in providing the education our students need.

Recent News

Bringing History Home 2011-12

Bringing History Home is now in all K-5 classrooms in the Cedar Rapids CSD and Prairie College Community
Read More

Reviews of BHH Lesson Plans on the NHEC

The National History Education Clearinghouse has reviewed two Bringing History Home units. The reviews assess the BHH First

Read More

BHH in College History Classrooms!

Dr. Catherine Denial of Knox College has been the BHH lead historian since the project began nine years ago.  

Read More
Grant Wood History Institute