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IUPUI, IPS and Community Collaboration Leads to The Historic Journey Curriculum

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April 19, 2012

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The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” proved more than a catchphrase with the creation of “The Historic Journey,” a standards-based K-12 curriculum that presents science, English, math and social studies lessons within a context of African and African-American history.

The special curriculum is the creative work of a unique collaboration of creator and publisher Garry D. Holland and a team of contributors, including Indianapolis Public Schools and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis faculty and staff.

“The Historic Journey” includes reading, writing and reflection activities that provide students with a broader, richer view of American history than typical textbooks have
offered. The entire curriculum is accessible online via an interactive web site created by an IUPUI School of Informatics intern in partnership with Holland’s team.

After years spent developing the curriculum, which includes chapters written by retired New York educator Kaba Hiawatha Kamene and 22 other local and national educators, Holland approached the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at IUPUI requesting help in printing the material in book form.

Intrigued by the project, Wayne Hilson, director of Multicultural Academic Relations at IUPUI, did more than arrange for book binding. Hilson mustered a variety of university resources -- the African American Male Equity Project, the School of Education, the Africana Studies Department, The Solutions Center, and the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education -- to contribute lessons, review the content and produce a lesson plan template to ensure consistency. The university even provided an educator-on-loan to assist in the creation of the curriculum’s companion website.

Given the diversity of IPS and the nature of Holland’s project, Hilson said he felt it was important to reach as many people as possible with the curriculum, and to bring together people who understand curriculum development and the importance of delivering the curriculum effectively.

“What other place or institution could do that better than IUPUI?” Hilson said.

IPS is the first school district in the state to infuse “The Historic Journey” into its curriculum, using the lessons and teaching resources offered to ensure the district meets the state’s cultural competency law. The 2011-12 school year is the second of a three-year implementation plan aimed at embedding cultural competency into instruction.

“I never thought I would see this happen,” said Pat Payne, director of the IPS Office of Multicultural Education and the Crispus Attucks Museum. “This is implementation in the true sense of the word.”

“The curriculum itself is an excellent educational resource . . . it is an excellent guide,” Payne said.

In addition to providing lesson plans and activities based on Indiana Academic Standards, “The Historic Journey” also aligns with the Common Core State Standards, according to Holland.

“We wanted to make the curriculum relevant so that teachers can continue its use as the state transitions to the Common Core,” Holland said.

Each of IPS’ 64 schools also received one DVD and three hard copies of “The Historic Journey.” The DVDs were provided courtesy of William Mays, publisher of the Indianapolis Recorder and the Minority Business Report.

IPS’ implementation of the curriculum has included extensive professional development for principals and teachers, along with training for improvement and diversity cadres, instructional coaches, turnaround coaches, and representatives from each content area. Even parent liaisons, clerical staff and beginning teachers received training.

Because cultural competency in schools is a controversial issue, and since African-American history can be an uncomfortable subject to discuss given the overtones of racism, teachers need training in how to create a classroom climate that makes “The Historic Journey” material as acceptable as possible, said professor Chalmer Thompson of the School of Education at IUPUI.

“It is important in teaching ‘The Historic Journey’ that teachers understand that students can react in a variety of ways that can compromise the curriculum unless teachers are willing to invite and encourage the dialogue that is necessary,” said Thompson, who led some of the professional development sessions.

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Media are invited to observe a classroom of third-graders as they learn from “The Historic Journey.” A classroom at Eleanor Skillen School (School 34) , 1410 East Wade Street, will be open to reporters from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. today (Thursday, April 19, 2012).  IPS and IUPUI officials are also available for interviews about “The Historic Journey.” For details,  contact Diane Brown at 317-371-0437.