In September, 55 social studies teachers from the Lakelands area received a sneak preview of what they can look forward to as participants in the new Teaching American History in the Lakelands program, which is being funded by a $991,000 grant from the Federal Government. Open to 3rd-, 4th-, 5th-, 8th- and 11th-grade social studies teachers in Greenwood, Laurens, Abbeville and McCormick County school districts, the program's goal is to provide teachers with extensive knowledge of various periods in American History, while also providing guidance in teaching methods and lesson planning.
The interest meeting, held at Lander University's "Lander on the Square" in Uptown Greenwood, featured three speakers: Clemson associate professor of history Paul Anderson; experienced Upstate master teacher Tami Finley; and history preservationist David Reuwer. Anderson discussed the program's history content, while Finley previewed what teachers will learn in the program. Reuwer gave a presentation focusing on the Revolutionary War. His portion of the interest meeting included a hands-on learning segment in which attendees participated in a battlefield re-enactment.
"David was very inspirational in talking about the American Revolution, the significance of our nation and the Founding Fathers," said Kevin Witherspoon, Lander associate professor of history and executive historian for the Lakelands program. "He had the teachers get up and do a mock Revolutionary War battle. We actually had a mini re-enactment right there in the room and everybody really got into it."
Witherspoon said that Anderson and Finley were equally as engaging and that the whole event provided an excellent preview of the new program. Funded for the next three years, the program will include multiple activities for enrolled teachers, including study tours of historic cities such as Charleston and Atlanta, other historic locations in the area, book discussions, special guest lectures and a mandatory two-week summer institute.
"The essence of the grant and the purpose of the program is to improve the teacher in the classroom," said Witherspoon. "The content side of Teaching American History is a big part, but so is the methodology, or teaching side of the program. We are going to have expert teachers offering tips and providing lesson plans." Witherspoon added that teachers will be given valuable resources to help them with instruction. "We will provide participants with books and primary sources, along with showing them historic places in the region that they may not have realized were there," he said.
The Teaching American History program is not the only one of its kind in South Carolina. In fact, Witherspoon was inspired to help write a grant for the Lakelands area because of his experience working with a program in Florence. "Through my previous experience with Teaching American History, I started thinking that we needed to bring this incredible resource to this area of the state," he said. "It has been a great experience working with the teachers and seeing the impact it has on them."
Witherspoon wrote the grant with the help of retired Greenwood District 50 teacher and Lander adjunct history instructor Domer Ridings, who also serves as the Teaching American History in the Lakelands program director. The pair will be joined in the program by other Lander faculty, as well as faculty from Erskine College, Presbyterian College and Clemson University, who will serve as master scholars for the Lakelands activities.
For information regarding Teaching American History in the Lakelands, or to sign up for the program, contact Domer Ridings at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Kevin Witherspoon at email@example.com or 864-388-8685.