By Steven Krolak
NEW ALBANY, Ind. – IU Southeast welcomed 22 of Indiana’s top social studies teachers from 12 counties to campus on Mon., Nov. 30, for an all-day immersion in the extraordinary world of the Center for Cultural Resources in the IU Southeast library.
The inaugural IU Southeast Social Studies Day was the brainchild of Neil Brewer, professor of education, and made possible by the School of Education and the Office of Academic Affairs, whose joint support enabled the teachers’ schools to hire substitutes for the day.
The goals of the event were to ignite passion for social studies and to introduce the teachers to tools for enhanced instruction available to them through the Center.
“The Center is something that simply needs to be shared with as many caring educators as possible,” said Brewer.
A unique feature
The Center for Cultural Resources is a unique feature of IU Southeast, built over a period of 45 years – so far — under the leadership of its co-founding directors, emeritus education faculty Dr. Claudia Crump and her colleague Carolyn Diener. Stocked initially by Crump, Diener and others from travels around the world, and continually augmented by donations, the collection was once housed in boxes in the School of Education hallways. It now fills a large, dedicated space in the IU Southeast library that is part stacks, part museum and part temple of global consciousness.
The Center’s holdings are instructional materials and artifacts organized in over 100 resource kits containing everything from maps and menus to dolls and masks, but also technological resources, videos and graphic media. The contents of the kits are focused around twelve universal themes, including people/places, needs, aesthetics, recreation, the natural world and more. The kits may be checked out by educators to inspire and support their instruction of social studies, arts, music and other elements of Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum requirements.
“What we try to do is enrich and extend what students can get on Google,” said Crump.
She led the teachers through an introduction into the Center’s collection and a breakout session with IU Southeast education students that focused on how the resources could form the basis of learning activities.
Ashley Anderson, a seventh-grade teacher from Greendale Middle School in Lawrenceburg, Ind., said that social studies teachers can benefit from the use of artifacts such as those at the Center.
“Having the artifacts readily available, being able to touch them and feel them is a lot different from seeing a digital version of them,” she said. “When we have digital texts or digital images, a lot of that is passive learning. But you can inspire kids, or get them interested, when they’re holding something in their hand. And when you tell them it’s really old, they tend to value it more.”
The teachers also heard presentations from local historians and toured the Wonderland Way collection at the Ogle Center, appreciating its richness both as art and as a tool to instruct students about Indiana history, culture and nature.
Lunch featured a welcome by Chancellor Ray Wallace, Executive Vice Chancellor Uric Dufrene and Doyin Coker-Kolo, dean of the School of Education.
During the final afternoon session educators focused on using state-of-the-art digital mapping software and overlays from the Geography Educators Network of Indiana (GENI) to tell the stories of their own home counties.
By emphasizing counties, Brewer presented yet another way to make social studies subject matter more relevant to students, a message that resonated with teachers.
“I didn’t know IU Southeast had a curriculum lab accessible to educators,” said Chris Jones of Rising Sun High School in Rising Sun, Ind. “Now I can help my students and fellow teachers reach resources they might not be able to find any other way. It’s also been great to collaborate with other teachers in the region and learn about the interactive maps for each county on-line as well as the large bicentennial maps and timelines that we can get to share the historical value of our counties.”
Built by students, for teachers
The link between the Center’s holdings and social studies instruction is not new. It goes back to the very beginnings of the collection, before the Center existed.
As the materials became a small hoard in the homes of Crump and Diener, the two recognized their potential as aids for students who did not have the ability to travel as much.
“So we decided that this collection had to be part of our teaching,” Crump said.
The articles began to circulate, and eventually began to find their way into the tubs that are still used today to hold the kits. Grant Line Elementary School, to the north of campus, became a testing ground for the use of the kits. Students in their field experience year used them in their classes.
“They organized the kits, took them into the classroom, tried them out, revised them, and wrote lesson plans based on the resources,” said Crump. “Much of what the kits are today is the result of the testing we did with those students.”
So central is the collection – and the philosophy it embodies — to the overall concept of the university that when the new library was being planned, Crump and Diener were invited to work with the architects on a designated space for what was to be the Center.
No longer actively teaching, yet still directing the Center, Crump is thankful to the library and its director, Marty Rosen, for continued support of the Center’s mission, in ways large and small. The library provides work-study assistants to help volunteers catalog and organize donations, and has integrated the holdings of the Center into its own lending structure.
Keeping social studies alive
If the Center for Cultural Resources is a three-dimensional projection of what social studies represents, events like Social Studies Day remind everyone that teaching is at the core of the social studies curriculum.
In recent years, social studies has lost ground in public education, which has emphasized mathematics and language arts in the testing requirements that are now central to measuring student achievement and funding schools. For Brewer, Crump and the assembled teachers, social studies is worthy of renewed relevance, due to its ability to lend context to technical skills and promote integrative thinking.
That type of thinking is important in order to design and use technology in ways that are socially constructive.
“We need to support social studies in order to promote moral attributes,” said Coker-Kolo. “It is important to prepare globally aware students and citizens of the world.”
Homepage photo: detail from a Japanese kimono donated to the Center for Cultural Resources.