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University of Iowa News Release

June 23, 2006

UI Visiting Fellow Awarded $958,000 History Grant

Elise Fillpot, a visiting fellow in the University of Iowa College of Education, is attempting to make history more meaningful for a sometimes difficult-to-reach demographic -- middle and high school students.

Fillpot, a 2004 graduate of the UI doctoral program in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, has secured a $958,000 U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History grant for a new project that she hopes will enhance history education in middle and high schools.

"We hope to help young people increase the sophistication of their understanding of history, increase their historical and critical thinking skills and enhance their appreciation of American history," Fillpot said.

In the course of the new project, titled "Grant Wood History Institute," Fillpot and her research team will work with 60 middle and high school teachers served by the Grant Wood Area Education Agency (AEA) in eastern and southeastern Iowa. The grant, which runs through 2008, will help establish professional development opportunities for 7th through 12th grade history and social studies teachers.

Fillpot has been director of the Bringing History Home (BHH) project since 2001. Under BHH, Fillpot worked with teachers and administrators in the Washington Community, Perry, Maquoketa and Creston School Districts to establish a history curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grades. She was awarded Teaching American History grants for that project as well -- one for $701,133 in 2001 and another for $938,860 in 2003 to extend and expand the program -- two of the largest grants ever secured by a UI College of Education graduate student.

Fillpot credits prior success, the cohesion of her program teams and belief in the project's importance as reasons for receiving another large grant.

"I really believe in the programs I'm doing," she said. "I'm not out there just trawling around for funding opportunities. My proposal designs reflect my commitment to these programs."

A majority of the historians and leadership team members from the BHH project will be retained for the History Institute. Fillpot said she believes the continuity between the programs will be an advantage for the team's new endeavors. Project leadership includes Colin Gordon, chairman of the UI Department of History; Catherine Denial, assistant professor of history at Knox College; and Bruce Fehn, associate professor of curriculum and instruction in the UI College of Education.

The History Institute will be divided into middle and high school programming. In spring 2007, each group of teachers will participate in a one-time, two-day paradigm workshop. Fillpot said the workshops will explore history as inquiry and explore primary historical source collections available on the Internet.

In summer 2007 and 2008, Fillpot's team will conduct two four-day institutes that will include historical lectures and research activities in the morning. In the afternoon, Fillpot said, the teachers will establish teaching goals based on the morning's research, discussion and exploration, and design lesson plans and units to implement in their own classrooms.

Faculty participants who will be providing sessions and leadership for various days of the institute include: Mark Peterson, UI associate professor of history; Jacki Rand, UI assistant professor of history; Johanna Schoen, UI associate professor of history; Shelton Stromquist, UI professor of history; and Leslie Schwalm, UI associate professor of history.

Fillpot said the group is currently exploring ways to utilize the UI campus and anticipates holding the workshops and institutes in university facilities. In the fall, Fillpot's team will begin recruiting interested teachers from the Grant Wood AEA. The UI Office of Evaluation and Assessment, which evaluated the BHH projects, will gather, analyze and provide ongoing information on the effectiveness of the Grant Wood History Institute.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu; Writer: Kelli Andresen