Mercyhurst, Erie schools get history teaching grant

Mercyhurst College and the Erie School District have been awarded a $499,734 Teaching American History Grant from the United States Department of Education to provide professional development for teachers and heighten awareness of the United States Constitution with a goal of enhancing student understanding of American history. 

Michael Federici, Ph.D., professor of political science at Mercyhurst, will direct the American Constitutional History and Search for Ordered Liberty program, which is a cooperative effort that also includes the Erie Maritime Museum, the National Association of Scholars, and the National Humanities Institute.

The program is expected to involve approximately 25 middle and high school teachers of American history and impact roughly 13,000 students in the City of Erie. 

The goal of the grant program is to demonstrate how school districts and institutions with expertise in American history can collaborate over a three-year period to ensure that teachers develop the knowledge and skills necessary to teach traditional American history in an exciting and engaging way that will improve students' achievement.

The grant comes on the heels of a $984,920 Teaching American History Grant awarded to Mercyhurst and the Corry School District a year ago, an initiative Federici also directs.

"The first year of the Corry program has far exceeded our expectations," he noted. "I am very excited about the prospect of working with the Erie School District on expanding and deepening teachers’ knowledge of American history."

Any middle or high school teacher of American history in the Erie School District is eligible to participate in the program that offers Pennsylvania Act 48 credits and provides access to educational resources, a project Web site, mentoring program, summer conferences at Mercyhurst, visits to historical sites, and annual public lectures by prominent U.S. history scholars. 

The first year will address Early America and the Constitutional Formation, the second year will cover the Early Republic, slavery, and the Civil War, and the last year will explore America as a global power in the 20th Century. 

Federici said educators who are interested in participating may contact him at 824-2560. Recruitment is expected to take several months with an anticipated program start in early spring, he added.

"In the three years of our grant program, most teachers are far more likely to read more, particularly primary documents in American history, than they did as undergraduates," Federici remarked. 

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