The Social Studies Network concluded its 2013-2014 Resource and Collaboration Days professional development series on a local note with the event entitled, History Near You, held on April 10, 2014 in the transformED space at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. The day provided Social Studies educators in Allegheny County with the resources and inspiration to design local history units for their students. The teachers were joined by representatives from the Heinz History Center, Soldiers & Sailors Museum, Frick Art & Historical Center, McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center, Ben Avon Area Historical Society, and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
The day began with a demonstration of a successful local history project implemented by the Avonworth School District. Avonworth Middle School teachers Jason Smith and Melissa DeSimone detailed how they partnered with the Ben Avon Area Historical Society and the Heinz History Center to create an experience for students that involved them in the exploration of a local topic. The students were first instructed in the use of research skills, working with primary resources, and oral history. They then leveraged the resources of the local historical society and community to conduct a research project that would address and promote a local issue.
In this second year of the project, the students, in addition to conducting research, are required to keep a journal, create and give a three to five minute presentation, compile a works cited document, and volunteer hours at the Ben Avon Society. The project dovetails nicely with the district’s initiative of incorporating project based learning into their instruction. In addition, the students are employing critical career and workforce skills necessary in a contemporary 21st Century environment, specifically gaining multiple perspectives through the use of primary source documents that are… History Near You!