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Smithsonian’s “Let’s Do History Tour” Program Partners with School Districts to Energize Social Studies Teaching

February 2, 2016

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is kicking off the 2016 leg of its “Let’s Do History Tour,” a national professional development program designed to strengthen and invigorate history teaching. The ongoing project seeks to support K-12 social studies teachers by introducing them to museum objects such as the Star-Spangled Banner and by providing effective techniques, powerful online tools and standards-based content that can be used in classrooms.

For the remainder of the 2015–2016 academic year, the tour will bring museum resources and teaching strategies to communities in: Norman, Okla., Norman Independent School District (Feb. 10–11); Kyle, Texas, Hays Consolidated Independent School District (April 12–14); Meridian, Miss., Eastern Mississippi Center for Education (April 19–20); and Amarillo, Texas, Region 16 Education Service Center (June 6–7). Each tour stop is designed to reach 150–200 teachers and is divided into sessions for teachers of grades K–5 and teachers of grades 6–12.

The “Let’s Do History Tour” is part of the A. James Clark Excellence in History Teaching Program. It is made possible through a gift from the late A. James Clark, former chairman of the board and CEO of Clark Enterprises Inc.

The tour program has two parts. The first consists of three-hour, highly interactive sessions for teachers designed to introduce them to the museum’s resources and methods. In the second, teachers take part in an intensive daylong program in which Smithsonian educators provide in-depth training on object-based learning and primary source analysis and work with teachers to integrate museum resources and methods into lesson plans for their classroom. Teachers participating in the training program receive free classroom materials on USB flash drives and links to Web resources as well as other teaching tools.

“Our program combines the best of what the museum has to offer with best practices in 21st-century education and will reach thousands of K–12 teachers nationwide,” said John Gray, the museum’s director. “While we can’t change the amount of time teachers have to teach American history, we can help them make every minute count.”

Since its founding in 2011, the program has reached more than 9,000 teachers and museum educators have visited 14 states across the country. Teachers evaluating the program have praised the resources and found that teaching with objects makes history more engaging for students. School districts interested in hosting future tour stops can contact the museum at historyteachers@si.edu or visit http://bit.ly/LetsDoHistory.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is continuing to renovate its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on democracy, immigration and migration and culture. For more information, visit https://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets 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.