Remembering A. James Clark and a legacy of active learning

We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of A. James Clark, the driving force behind Clark Construction Group, LLC. The story of Clark’s rise in the construction industry demonstrates his remarkable business acumen, but the story of his impact is not complete without an examination of his philanthropy. Clark was a strong supporter of education, particularly in training the next generation of engineers. He was also a patriot interested in improving the future of the country by educating and inspiring students with stories of American history.

Teachers gather around a librarian with open, historic books

The Clark Charitable Foundation has generously supported the A. James Clark Excellence in History Teaching Program at the museum since its inception in 2011. To date, the Clark Program has trained more than eight thousand teachers in thirteen states across the country through the Let’s Do History Tour, and allowed us to produce free, hands-on programs for Washington Metropolitan area teachers through the Teach It Forward Institutes. These Institutes bring local teachers to the museum for intensive multi-day workshops which prepare them to return to their schools and “teach it forward” by training other teachers. Both programs help teachers bring American history to life for their students by integrating inquiry, object-based learning, and other active learning techniques into their teaching.

As a teacher in Alabama noted, "The program energized my desire to really teach history and bring it alive!”

A Hawaii teacher who participated commented, “Wow, the teaching with drama and the demonstrations, they grabbed your attention and made you want to do more and be a better teacher. It made me glad I gave up a Saturday during Spring break. This rocks!”

Teachers in a classroom look at man in western costume on screen

Past participants have shared their experiences integrating ideas and resources from the Clark Program by incorporating drama into a high school history class, creating object portraits with middle school students, using museum resources with kindergarteners, and watching the program come full circle, on this blog.

Clark Charitable Foundation support is creating a community of teachers nationwide whose infectious enthusiasm for teaching will inspire students to think more deeply about our nation’s past.

Teachers hold large strip of red fabric while video shows flagmaker from 1814

While we mourn the loss of this remarkable man, we know that his legacy of hard work and love for his country will live on through generations of students and teachers.

Judith Gradwohl is the MacMillan Associate Director for Education and Public Engagement. Carrie Kotcho is the A. James Clark Director of Education & Outreach.