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Five College Institutes Help Teachers Develop Diverse Curricula

AMHERST — The Five College Schools Partnership is celebrating its 30th anniversary by organizing two national institutes, one exploring Native Americans of the region and the other focused on the value of global children’s picture books as teaching tools. Both institutes are aimed at helping K-12 teachers develop tools to make them more effective in the classroom.

Native Americans of New England, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), will bring K-12 educators from around the country to UMass Amherst in July. These 25 NEH summer scholars will explore the history of indigenous peoples of the region through site visits, primary source analysis, and presentations by native and non-native lecturers.

Field trips to the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, Plimoth Plantation, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, and the Mohegan Nation will help expand their knowledge of current research on Native American history and communities as well as their understanding of what that research means for teaching native history in K-12 classrooms.

The summer scholars will develop materials to incorporate Native American studies into their classroom curricula. These materials will be available for other educators through the Five College website. Native Americans of New England is one of 25 NEH seminars and institutes offered for college and university teachers this summer. The 544 NEH summer scholars who participate will teach more than 68,000 students the coming year.

In the second institute, titled Summer Institute for Educators, pre-K through third-grade teachers and librarians will meet in the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst to explore diversity and representation in international children’s literature and create resources to integrate global picture books and related materials into their teaching.

The lesson plans and materials these teachers develop during the institute in July will become the first components of a website that uses global picture books as entry points for deepening children’s understanding of the world and of themselves. The website will be piloted in the fall and will be launched through an international webinar next spring.

According to Five College Schools Partnership Director Marla Solomon, this summer’s institutes are in keeping with the professional-development opportunities her office has offered K-12 educators since its inception in 1985.

“The Five College Schools Partnership has worked for 30 years with a consistent mission: to strengthen education from kindergarten to college by supporting communication and sharing resources among K-12 schools and the colleges,” she said. “Our programs are powerful because they build on the mutual interests of college and K-12 faculty members to improve their own teaching and the quality of student learning throughout the educational system. Teachers and faculty members work collaboratively in specific areas of their expertise, often, as in the case of these two projects, developing resources that can be shared broadly and used by many other teachers. Increasingly, we can use technology to help with that kind of dissemination.”

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