Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Encounters & Exchanges First Annual Conference

On Tuesday April 3rd, the first annual conference for Encounters and Exchanges in U.S. History was held at Reading Memorial High School. Elementary, Middle and High School teachers from the Danvers, Lowell, Lynnfield, North Reading and Reading Public Schools attended the conference.

The day began with a keynote address from D. Brenton Simons, the President & CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Mr. Simons spoke on the research and content in his newest book Witches, Rakes, and Rogues: True Stories of Scam, Scandal, Murder and Mayhem in Boston, 1630 - 1775. Using the stories from his book including accused witches in Boston and the poisoning of the Whittier children, Mr. Simons tied the brief glimpses at the lives of colonial Bostonians to the greater themes of the time period and mentioned what they can tell us about 17th & 18th century Puritanism, women's roles, and social networks. Utilizing the Historical Thinking Benchmarks of the American Historical Society, which drive the Encounters and Exchanges in U.S. History program, Mr. Simons enlightened participants on how a historian conducts his/her craft.

Morning and Afternoon breakout sessions included Critical Thinking and Decision Making in U.S. History, Interdisciplinary approaches to Teaching U.S. History, Using Revolutionary War Records, Making Choices: Multiple Perspectives of Revolutionary Events, A View from the Participants at Lexington and Concord, Primary Sourcebooks, and the Continental Congress and the Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Presenters included representatives from the Boston National Historic Park, Adams National Historic Park, Bristol Community College, UMass Lowell, Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, Minuteman National Park, and the National Archives and Records Administration. All of the breakout workshops included work with primary sources and utilized pedagogical approaches that require students to use historical thinking to think critically about the past.

Teachers were also treated to a performance by Joan Gatturna titled Petticoat Patriot: Soldier Girl of the American Revolution. In this performance teachers learned more about Deborah Sampson, a young woman who disguised herself as a boy and served as a Continental soldier in the American Revolution. In her performance, Ms. Gatturna described the different roles available for young men and women in the 18th century while also discussing the history of the American Revolution. Teachers received a teaching guide with lessons requiring analysis of primary sources including soldiers' orders and a young woman's diary.