Several good sessions this morning:

Art Smith, an 8th grade US History teacher from Liberty, MO shared some of his ideas of how to engage kids in learning. Very hands-on! Okay, incredibly hands-on.

He had his kids hack out actual canoes to learn about Lewis and Clark, for example. He enjoys his work and doesn’t mind spending A LOT of his time and money to create things for his kids to do. Not sure if I would have the energy.

I did like his idea of painting wide stripes on his walls at the beginning of the year and then have his kids paint timelines on throughout the semester. Lots of cool things you could do with that. He also painted huge sheets of plywood and laid them on his floor. His kids then painted maps on them. Encouraging to see young teachers excited about doing what’s best for kids even though it’s difficult!

Spent a hour with three teachers from Lincoln, NE who used a Teaching American History workshop to create an artifact (and “artifake”) trunk to teach US and Nebraska history. Some neat activities to get kids into the idea of being historians. They use actual and fake artifacts, photos, newspapers, census records, etc to bring history into the classroom. They even use the white cotton gloves. Loved their last quote:

“Well-behaved women rarely make history”

Was hoping for great stuff from the next session that was presented by a group of teachers representing the committee that publishes the the NCSS journal for young learners. It was titled “Social Studies Best Practices for Elementary Teachers.” Not good. A perfect example of how NOT to do staff development. They tried to have each person present on a separate idea for ten minutes each.

Of course, they all rushed through their stuff, didn’t allow questions, only one of them had handouts, etc. I rememeber some of good things but didn’t have time to write it all down. I finally walked out and went to the vendor exhibits. I actually met a couple of people there that might be able to help out with my Brown TAH project. (Teacher Created Materials, a DBQ group, and a software company that’s making a VERY cool decision making game)