By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Clague Middle School social studies teacher Karma Nordstrom is one of only 58 teachers who was selected in August for a National History Day fall professional development program that concludes next month.
This program is a collaboration between National History Day and the Library of Congress and includes 58 teachers from around the world.
“I wanted to be involved in this program because I learned more about teaching history and inquiry learning from the Chicago Metro History Fair workshops I attended than anything I ever learned from the teaching program at my university,” said Nordstrom. “In addition, the Chicago Metro History Fair and National History Day programs helped me create wonderful experiences for my students. I love creating inquiry projects using real historical documents. Also, I’ll never forget taking a group of students to the Chicago Historical Society Research Center on a Saturday to work on their history fair projects. We sat at tables next to real historians and, wearing the required white cotton gloves, we paged through crumbling old record books and examined old photographs. It was fascinating.”
Nordstrom has been following the National History Day (NHD) ever since she lead the middle school history fair program at John C. Haines Elementary (K-8) in Chicago in 2004-2006.
In her application essay, she wrote about taking her students to the Chicago Metro History Fair and Illinois National History Day competitions, and also about her long-time desire to bring the history fair to the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Since she was selected in August, Nordstrom has completed readings, engaged in discussion boards with peers from around the world, and joined live programs with historians and curriculum specialists to improve her practice. The course focuses on research skills, primary source analysis, historical thinking skills, and classroom application.
“Each month we explore a packet of primary sources from the Library of Congress based on a particular theme,” Nordstrom explained. “This month the sources were all music and audio recordings related to the Great Depression. The course is in Schoology, so the facilitators use a discussion prompt to get us analyzing, describing, and discussing the different sources. Soon after there is an hour-long lecture by MIT history professor, Dr. Christopher Capozzola. In the lectures, he shares the deeper meaning of the sources and he and the other facilitators give suggestions and answer questions related to using these sources in the classroom. The sessions are interesting and inspiring.”
The 58 teachers selected represent 40 of National History Day’s affiliates across the country and around the world.
“This course has particular value now as teachers and students continue to address challenges of non-traditional learning settings required by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn in a statement. “The crucial skills Mrs. Nordstrom is learning and honing over the course of this series will benefit her students for many years to come. As a Library of Congress TPS Consortium member, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to offer this opportunity for teachers.”
The course ends in mid-December. To receive full credit, participants need to create a classroom activity connected to the content learned in the course, integrating at least one primary source from the Library of Congress and one active learning strategy. The course facilitators will then upload and share all resources created by teachers with the group so they can learn from each other.
“I’m excited to see what ideas my coursemates come up with and to find ways to use these lessons with my current students,” Nordstrom said. “My ultimate goal is to help Ann Arbor students participate in the Michigan History Day competition and eventually National History Day.”