Bringing America’s Industrial Revolution to K–12 Classrooms
Since 2005, The Henry Ford has hosted NEH professionalization workshops for K–12 teachers, bringing more than 350 educators to Dearborn, Michigan to learn more about America’s Industrial Revolution. The workshop attracts educators from across the nation with a broad range of specializations: the staff particularly aim to include a diversity of expertise and experience in each workshop cohort. And while the program is especially attractive to social studies teachers, many STEM teachers also use what they learn in the workshop as an opportunity to provide historical and cultural context to the concepts they teach.
“Knowing the resources available and knowing I can contact other teachers as well as [The Henry Ford] if I need help is supportive to my progress as a teacher.”
In lectures from university professors, participants take an in-depth look at the U.S.’s Industrial Revolution, learning about the development of steam transportation and the assembly line as well as its impact on the domestic sphere, on women and children, and the mechanization of agriculture. The Henry Ford is invested in “learning by doing.” As part of the program, teachers help build a Model T Ford, build miniature cars on an assembly line, ride a steam train, and practice scything at the institute’s farm. They visit Thomas Edison’s laboratory and tour a working automobile factory. Teachers are asked to think about how they will use what they learned in the classroom by developing lesson plans or “learning blueprints.”
In addition to learning about American history, educators are encouraged to think about how they can use archival resources in the classroom. Many go on to use The Henry Ford’s digitized collections in their lesson plans; other teachers from the region have made a visit to the institute an annual field trip for their students. For the participants, the workshop is both personally and professionally valuable. Recounting the experience, one teacher reflected “The ride on the train in the rain, sitting in the seat that Rosa Parks would have sat in on the bus, and the ride in a 1921 Model T are memories that I will cherish forever.” Another celebrated the community he had gained: “Knowing the resources available and knowing I can contact other teachers as well as [The Henry Ford] if I need help is supportive to my progress as a teacher.”