Incorporating Iowa history into education

The Iowa Museum Association (IMA), in partnership with the University of Northern Iowa, Simpson College, Graceland University and Iowa Public Television, received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, which will fund the Teaching Iowa History Project.

“This is a chance for the state's premier teachers' college to develop resources in Iowa’s history for Iowa’s teachers,” said Leisl Carr-Childers, assistant professor of history at UNI.

NEH logo

The Teaching Iowa History Project will align with Gov. Kim Reynold’s initiative to elevate Iowa’s history and provide the opportunity to embed the teaching of Iowa history in grades K through 12 for the first time in over a decade. IMA will be working with their partners to provide Iowa history content and instructional resources to support Iowa’s teachers in meeting the new standards

“The project will help to take real-world artifacts from the history of Iowa and get those incorporated into curriculum and curriculum development for teachers at all grade levels in Iowa schools to be using these artifacts within their classes,” said Hillery Oberle, senior director of corporate and foundation relations for University Advancement.

There are three phases to this grant. Phases one and two will be to create a database that has resources from across the state of Iowa. This database will list and describe searchable materials from across the state, and also sort that information so teachers in training who are writing the lesson plans can use it. Phase three will deploy all of this information for public use.

This project will be ongoing for three years, during which the database will be built. Fundraising for this grant will continue through at least the first year of the grant cycle. The total project budget is $120,000, with the partners raising $60,000 and NEH matching that with another $60,000.

UNI’s role in all of this will be in teacher preparation. This project will be putting primary sources of public history in touch with teacher education for the purpose of elevating and developing materials around Iowa’s history.

Carr-Childers also says that by the end of this process they could have something much bigger, but are uncertain what form they will take, exactly. One idea, however, is to build a forum that will allow the public to access the resources.

IMA is the statewide museum organization that partners museum institutions with other institutions. Another thing that UNI will be doing is helping IMA continue its work with its partner museums. This will be done by ensuring that as many as possible of the partner museums are involved.

“What this really does is demonstrate to Iowans the importance of disciplines like history and institutions like museums,” said Carr-Childers.