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 Main | K - 12 Conference | Teaching American History Grant Roundtable | Education Resources
Gotham's K-12 Teaching Initiative

Teaching New York history is mandated by the state's K-12 curriculum, but it seldom gets presented to students in a memorable and vivid way. In large part this is because teachers confront a dearth of exciting and useful materials, they receive little professional training dealing with the subject matter and its pedagogy, they are often isolated from discussions taking place in universities, and they get little opportunity to interact with interested peers.

Scores of talented instructors, however, in the public, parochial and independent school systems, have devised innovative approaches to teaching local history. In addition, there have been many initiatives by educators working in such institutions as public television, the Daily News, the New York Historical Society, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, to use the city's history in curricula.

The Gotham Center wants to bring all these people together to pool their talent and energy. The long term goal is to design an integrated series of curriculum packages that bundle primary source materials (both texts and images) together with suggested and tested lesson plans, and to post them on our web site, making them available for immediate downloading by teachers throughout the city.

Our recent projects have included two teaching conferences in 2001 and 2003 that brought together local teachers, historians and cultural organizations. We have been awarded two US Department of Education grants, History, First Hand, and the city-wide project, American Journey.

American Journey: From Staff Development to Student Achievement
in the Study of American History (Teaching American History Project 2003)

In 2003, the Gotham Center, along with the New York City Department of Education and their partners, was awarded a citywide Teaching American History Grant from the US Department of Education. The American Journey: From Staff Development to Student Achievement in the Study of American History project will develop, document, evaluate and disseminate a program of professional development that will instruct public school teachers in basic concepts of traditional American history. The program partners include City Lore, the Historic House Trust, Henry Street Settlement, the Brooklyn Historical Society, The New-York Historical Society, and other historical societies and museums across the city.
The foundation of the program will be professional development courses for grade 3 through 8 teachers. The program will include Summer Institutes for less experienced teachers in elementary and middle schools and Fellows sessions throughout the academic year for selected middle schools teachers. Both will teach basic concepts, content and chronologies of American history, demonstrating how they are illustrated by some local examples. They will also show how these histories, both national and local, can be brought into the classroom through informed teaching and engaging methodologies. We hope to provide a model for the centralization and systematization of the teaching of American and New York City history throughout the school system.

The program will also establish a web-based History Education Network for Grade k-12 teachers. It will support and disseminate the history instruction, content and methodology emerging from the professional development courses, the experience of other Teaching American History Grant recipients, and the vast range of resources available from the networked groups to encourage new teaching and learning in the classroom.

The program will target teachers in schools that are not served by other enrichment programs, including other Teaching American History programs. We will identify other under-performing schools and schools with a preponderance of under-trained teachers. The grant will also enable us to build on relationships and experience developed over many years between schools and the participating cultural organizations.

For more information, call the Gotham Center Education Office at 212-817-8467 or email or

To see the Chancellor Klein's press release announcing this grant CLICK HERE.

History, First Hand (Teaching American History Project 2001)

In October 2001, the Gotham Center received a prestigious three-year grant from the U. S. Department of Education. The History, First Hand project, a partnership with Community School District One (CSD One) and City Lore on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, is an innovative model of professional development designed to raise student achievement by improving teachers' knowledge, understanding, and awareness of American history. The research-based program was developed to make the study of history more engaging for teachers and students in 3rd to 8th grades. The project enables teachers to teach American history as a distinct subject within the core curriculum and aids teachers in their quest to raise basic student literacy skills. In all phases of the project, teachers and students learn to use the Internet as a research tool and develop digital projects.

Over the course of the grant, the Gotham Center and their partners developed and implemented four teacher courses focusing on different themes in American history, with a special emphasis on the history of New York City. These courses exposed CSD One teachers to various aspects of New York's history; they provided opportunities for integrating New York City themes into the core curriculum; and they familiarized teachers with new strategies and teaching methods for their classrooms. The courses encouraged teachers to focus on the full range of primary resources available for historical research: newspaper accounts, diaries, letters, census and other manuscript records, maps, autobiographies, fiction, poetry, accounts by journalists, art. The first course, "New York Challenged," held in Spring 2002, focused on adversities that the city has faced throughout its history, including the Draft Riots and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. The second course, "New York at Work and Play, 1940s-1950s," held in Fall 2002, dealt with the ways in which labor and leisure have played defining roles in the city's past. The third course, "New York: Family and Community," held in Spring 2003, dealt with the changing structure of New York families, including the role of ethnicity, class, and race on family dynamics. For more information, CLICK HERE.

In addition to courses, the History, First Hand partnership included:

-- A mentorship program in which select Community School District One teachers were mentored in their classrooms to develop and field test project ideas for dissemination
-- The future publication History, First Hand, a curriculum resource, issued both in print and online with project ideas, lesson plans, and teaching methods
-- Citywide events such as the Gotham Center's Teaching History Conference held on May 9-10, 2003.

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2001 Teaching American
History Project

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The Gotham Center for New York City History
The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, Room 6103
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309
Telephone: 212-817-8460
FAX: 212-817-1541