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Generous Pledge to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Expands K-12 Teaching Program

November 25, 2014

A generous gift of $5 million has been pledged by the Clark Charitable Foundation to expand the A. James Clark Excellence in History Teaching Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Since its founding in 2011, the Excellence in History Teaching Program has trained more than 8,000 teachers in 13 states across the country.

A portion of the donation will be used to fund an endowment to support the position of the Director of Education and Outreach at the museum. This position will be responsible for developing digital learning resources for K-12 teachers and students as well as managing the A. James Clark Excellence in Teaching History Program.

The Excellence in History Teaching Program centers on two free, hands-on programs, the Teach It Forward Institutes and Let’s Do History Tour. Teach It Forward works with a select group of experienced D.C., Maryland and Virgina area K-12 teachers to bring American history to life by integrating inquiry, object-based learning, and other active learning techniques into their teaching.   Teachers then return to their schools and “teach it forward” by training other teachers.

Let’s Do History is a nationwide professional development tour where National Museum of American History education staff  travel to six school districts each year to deliver 12 hours of high-energy, hands-on training to elementary and secondary school teachers over two days. 

“We are the nation’s history laboratory. We teach educators and students to examine and analyze our incomparable collections to bring American history to life and make it relevant to contemporary life,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “We are grateful to the Clark Charitable Foundation for making possible the sharing of these resources across the country and directly to teachers.”

The Let’s Do History Tour visited Tempe and Tucson Ariz. in September, Carson City, Nev. in October, Anchorage, Alaska on Nov. 1 and Old Town and Rockport, Maine on Nov. 19-20. School districts interested in hosting future tour stops can contact the museum at historyteachers@si.edu.

Through the tour, teachers go behind-the-scenes for Q& A sessions with museum curators and actors portraying historical characters such as John Brown via live videoconferencing and receive free teaching resources. “My expectations were wildly surpassed. It was the best in-service program I have attended in the past five years,” a current West Virginia teacher expressed in a follow up survey. 

The Clark Charitable Foundation was founded in 1987 and is funded by the A. James Clark family, with the mission to provide a better quality of life for people living primarily in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. The Foundation places particular emphasis on K-12 education, college access, military and veterans affairs and works with community-based organizations to help the disadvantaged.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. We help people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is currently renovating its West exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture, and new spaces devoted to history education. For more information, visit https://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.