What is it like to attend a Teaching American History multi-day seminar? It’s like meeting 20 distant cousins for the first time and discovering that you share a love of American history. Or it is like an old-fashioned religious revival that renews one’s faith in education, deepen one’s knowledge of American history and government, and inspires one to be a better teacher. In short, they are a shot of energy for this weary high school history teacher.
TAH multi-day seminars are free three-day events, held over weekends (or in summer on weekdays) throughout the year. Each program follows TAH’s approach to all its document-based seminars. The weekend is rooted in the close reading and discussion of primary source documents. The meeting room is arranged in a hollow square to encourage participation and the seminar leader who facilitates the discussion has expertise in the topic. Teachers receive the reading packet several weeks ahead of the program, so they have time to prepare questions and comments.
One difference between the multi-day events and our one-day seminars is the opportunity to tour a historic site or museum. Each seminar takes place at or near a historic site or museum relevant to the seminar topic.
For example, I recently attended a multi-day seminar entitled The Great Depression and the New Deal held in the heart of the Tennessee River Valley, in Clinton, TN. John Moser, Chair of the Masters in American History and Government program at Ashland University and a 20th century America scholar led the discussion. Teachers from several states attended—the farthest came from California. All were well-prepared, raised good questions, and participated in a friendly exchange of interpretations about the documents and their significance. We arrived in time for a welcome reception on Friday night and jumped into the documents bright and early Saturday morning, wrapping up the weekend at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday afternoon we toured the Museum of Appalachia in Oak Ridge, TN whose mission “is to instill in the community—regionally, nationally, and internationally—a greater knowledge of and appreciation for the history & culture of the people of Southern Appalachia.” The exhibits include a pioneer village, Appalachian musical instruments, and tools used on the farm and in the home. The tour gave us a better appreciation of how the Tennessee Valley Authority changed the lives of people in the region.
The hotel rooms and food are covered by TAH. Plus, teachers attending receive a $600 stipend to help offset the cost of travel to the site. The tours are certainly part of the attraction of the multi-day seminars. In past events, I have toured Valley Forge, the Museum of the American Revolution, the USS Midway in San Diego, and the MLK National Historic Park in Atlanta. Spring 2024 events include sites in Charleston, SC, San Francisco CA, and New Orleans, LA. Applications are now open! If you have never attended a Teaching American History Weekend Colloquium, get your application in now. We encourage applications from teachers who are applying for the first time.
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Ray Tyler was the 2014 James Madison Fellow for South Carolina and a 2016 graduate of Ashland University’s Masters Program in American History and Government. Ray is a former Teacher Program Manager for TAH and a frequent contributor to our blog.