Indiana History for the Secondary Classroom

Indiana Historical Society
Indianapolis, IN

In Indiana, as in many states, the public school curriculum mandates state history just once — in fourth grade. The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) viewed the state’s Bicentennial in 2016 as the perfect chance to encourage a sense of place, civic literacy, and civil dialogue — especially among older students, as they approach voting age and prepare to share the job of stewarding our state. But how could it do so effectively in a curriculum without room for non-mandatory course material? This three-part project — Hoosiers and the American Story, the Bicentennial Teacher Workshops, and the website Destination Indiana — is IHS’s answer. These new tools integrate state history into 8th and 11th grade U.S. History. They give teachers the content knowledge needed to help young Hoosiers see American history all around them–to position Indiana’s history within the context of American history.

U.S. History textbooks from national publishers tell, by definition, national stories, with little space–or expertise–for state histories. In October 2014, the IHS Press published Hoosiers and the American Story. This supplemental textbook for grades 8-12 provides Indiana examples of topics in the US History curriculum, such as the Civil War and industrialization. It is the only such book in Indiana. With grant funding from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., IHS shipped 32,000 free copies to schools statewide in six months. Due to very high demand, 27,000 additional books were printed in October 2015. These books have been distributed to schools in 89 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

Destination Indiana (www.destination-indiana.com) launched in January 2015. The site is structured as a collection of journeys (curated groups of images), largely from the IHS collections, presented in chronological order with written and audio narration. Journeys cover state history geographically and thematically. Teachers and students can watch complete journeys, then export images to create their own journeys. Keyword searches also return hits from all 60,000+ images in IHS’s digitized collections. Thus, the website’s intuitive, visual format provides a student-friendly portal into IHS’s collections.

Hoosiers and the American Story and the Destination Indiana website are the foundation of the Bicentennial Teacher Workshops. Each one-day workshop provides teachers a content-based keynote from book co-author Dr. James H. Madison; strategies for using the book to teach the 8th and 11th grade U.S. History curriculum; lesson plans and other resources from state and local history organizations; National History Day in Indiana; and a tutorial on Destination Indiana.

The Bicentennial Teacher Workshops are free for teachers and include materials, food, and a travel stipend. IHS also reimburses schools for the cost of substitute teachers. Since November 2013, IHS has hosted 10 workshops in locations across Indiana. Four additional workshops are planned in 2016. IHS has served more than 1,400 teachers with this project, and plans to serve 800 more before December. IHS believes secondary students who learn about Indiana’s past will become adults who care for Indiana’s future. As one teacher explained (and many others echoed), this project has enabled her to help her students become “thoughtful citizens of Indiana.”