Wisconsin History Collaborative




June 2002:  Colonial and Revolutionary Thought


This first colloquium was designed to enhance participants' knowledge of the early evolution of American political democracy. The colloquium was held, June 10-14, in Northern Wisconsin on Madeline Island, an ideal location due to its exhibits and resources on the voyageurs at the Madeline Island State Historical Society. The principal historian was Gary Nash, University of California at Los Angeles Professor Emeriti and Director of the National Center for History in the Schools. Professor Nash has published nineteen books as well as over twenty book chapters, more than thirty-five articles, and scores of reviews, essays, and comments. Among his several important historical works is the well-known Red, White, and Black (1974). 


In addition to Dr. Nash, thirty-seven others participated in this first colloquium. Based on participants' evaluations, the colloquium was successful in meeting its objectives. First, Gary Nash, with his breadth and depth of knowledge in American colonial history, provided the participants with an excellent foundation of the colonial past. Accessible throughout the week, Nash's presentations were informative, yet entertaining. Second, an atmosphere of professionalism and collegiality prevailed, establishing a learning community that will be sustained beyond the life of the grant. Third, the NCHE team did an excellent job organizing and delivering this intensive teacher training. As a group, the participants expressed satisfaction with both the quantity and the quality of the information presented. Overall, a fair balance was struck between the demands for historical content and the application of this content in the classroom.


September 2002: Fall Retreat


Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History at Cornell University delivered lectures and led discussions concerning the Salem Witchcraft trials and, more broadly, social roles in the seventeenth-century English colonies. Norton's presentations were enhanced by hands-on guidance from master teacher Betty Franks, whose exercises in historical thinking about the impact of the Louisiana Purchase prompted spirited discussion about historical destiny, historical accidents, and modern commemoration of complex events. Teachers from both La Crosse and CESA #12, as well as faculty from UW-La Crosse and UW-Superior, attended the retreat.


April 2003: Spring Retreat


On Friday, an encampment of  Civil War reenactors at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse provided myriad learning opportunities for our group as well as other local students and teachers. Ron Kind provided the introduction to Saturday's Conference on War and  Memory. The conference was designed to further understanding of the role that war plays in U.S. history. Dr. Edward Linenthal provided the keynote speech: "Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, An Illustrated Lecture."


June 2003:  Different Voices


The second colloquium, held at the Northern Great Lakes regional site in northern Wisconsin, explored U.S. history through a thematic and conceptual approach, beginning with the cultural and social history of the 19th century. Building on the historical knowledge gained throughout the previous year, participants were exposed to a variety of topics, all falling under the theme “Different Voices.” Participants improved their history knowledge by "the gathering of people and cultures from many places," an important component of NCHE's recommended strategy for teacher education in history.


Beginning with Reconstruction, principal historian, Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, examined the problems that arose once Reconstruction failed to meet its promise to African-Americans after the Civil War. Foner provoked stimulating discussion regarding past and present instances of racism, and explored definitions of "American Freedom" with grant participants.


Complementing Foner’s contributions were the presentations of Leroy Ashby, a 20th century historian at Washington State University. The recipient of numerous awards for teaching, Ashby has also written many works on topics ranging from children in the Progressive Era to a biography of Senator Frank Church. He is currently working on a text of popular culture in the U.S. which was the subject of his presentations. Looking at the United States after Reconstruction, Ashby reviewed the rise of mass culture through the mediums of vaudeville, film, music, and sports, to name a few. Paralleling Foner’s earlier discussions of racism, Ashby revealed how many groups on the fringe of mainstream culture used mass culture as an entrée into the dominant culture, while at the same time influencing contemporary society. He introduced teachers to a variety of new topics that will appeal to middle and high school students. Ashby integrated brief film clips throughout his presentations, which many teachers commented upon and planned to use in their own classrooms. 


Supporting Foner and Ashby was the NCHE  master teacher, Linda Clark. She provided excellent in-class assignments such as the political cartoons of Thomas Nast. NCHE learning specialist and Professor of History at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Kurt Leichtle dealt with the theme of “Different Voices” from a regional perspective.


Further contributions to the colloquium were presentations by three University of  Wisconsin-La Crosse participating historians. Jodi Vandenberg-Daves considered changes in women’s life patterns in the 20th century. Victor Macias-Gonzalez led a discussion on “Hispanic Voices” and Chuck Lee spoke on the “Hmong in Wisconsin.”


The learning community that was established in the first colloquium has continued and the sessions were marked with a healthy exchange among all of the participants. The theme of “Different Voices” will be further explored in the fall 2003 retreat.



October 2003: Different Voices Continued


The Fall meeting of the Wisconsin History Collaborative continued the past summer’s discussions of “Different Voices in History.” The presentations, panels, and discussion activities explored how “different voices,” especially of under-represented groups, reshape the narratives and the questions we ask about the American past. Special attention was paid to pedagogy used in the presentation of different voices and controversial issues. 


The meeting took place in beautiful Cable, Wisconsin, and was sponsored by CESA #12 School District, the School District of La Crosse, and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The retreat provided the first structured opportunity for teacher networking across the two area grant projects, the Wisconsin History Collaborative and the Cross River History Consortium. Six Cross River (K-8 TAH Grant) participants from schools in La Crosse, CESA #12, Cloquet, and Caledonia, were welcome guests at the October event. Through their knowledge of curriculum in the lower grades, they enhanced the discussion and widened the scope of our considerations about teaching history to young people.


Three presentations on Friday were disparate in their topics, but well linked in terms of carrying forward the group’s previous conversations on different voices. Joel Sipress (UW-Superior-History) presented on “Industrialization and the Labor Movement.” His presentation emphasized the point that patterns of “different voices,” emerge because of different experience. Joel highlighted the dramatic shift in the patterns of experience of people moving from an agricultural to an industrial society, and engaged the group in analysis of primary documents related to the late nineteenth-century labor movement.


Deb Hoskins (UW-La Crosse-Women’s Studies) presented on “Sexuality in History.” Dr. Hoskins pointed out that children today live in a highly sexualized society, in which sexuality is mixed up with consumerism. The mixed messages children receive today can be better understood with attention to the historical forces that have shaped sexuality in the U.S., including the sexual and racial hierarchies in legal marriage codes dating from early modern England and the U.S. colonies. She also highlighted the ways that erasure of experiences, including the experiences of gay and lesbian people, has profoundly shaped American culture.


Susan Crutchfield (UW-La Crosse-English) informed the group about a relatively new field of historical scholarship, “People with Disabilities in History.” Dr. Crutchfield helped participants think about where people with disabilities currently fit in the history curriculum, and where they could fit. She provided numerous resources for participants and elicited lively discussion about how people have historically created, and not created, group identities based on ability.


In a discussion on “Connecting the Dots,” Joel Sipress and Jodi Vandenberg-Daves (UW-La Crosse-History) reviewed major themes in the presentations of historians in both the summer and fall Wisconsin History Collaborative meetings. Themes such as social hierarchies, shifts in everyday experiences, and difference and power were explored in this short content review discussion.


On Friday evening, grant participants enjoyed a Native American storytelling experience. Gerry De Perry, Diane DeFoe, and Robbie Goslin, of the Red Cliff Tribe explained the role of storytelling in Native cultures, and recounted many stories that illuminated key Native values and the ways in which those valued are passed along through generations. The personal dimensions of the stories were also a good reminder of the living quality of history, and the importance of connections to traditions for both personal and cultural well-being. This storytelling event, around a campfire on a beautiful October evening, added important dimensions to the group’s understanding of the different voices theme, and made for a memorable and fun time.


On Saturday, the group had the opportunity for additional intellectual sharing and for showcasing examples of how to bring the history content home to the classrooms. Ellen Allington (Teacher, Phillips) started the morning with a discussion of what participants have been reading lately, especially related to history. It was an excellent opportunity to share the books that make us think.


Betty Ferris (CESA #12, Curriculum Specialist) led a “Share Shop” activity that was very effective in bringing out the successful models for teaching history that grant participants have employed since they began participating in the Collaborative. This was a special highlight of the weekend, because history educators at various grade levels learned how their colleagues were taking topics that the whole group has explored, and translating those topics into meaningful history pedagogy. The group also discussed how they knew that their new teaching strategies were making a difference. Two examples of evidence were: pre- and post- surveys of student attitudes about history, and an assignments which asked students to illuminate their own history skills by writing letters to museum curators on a topic they knew a great deal about, and explaining why they would make good curators themselves.  (David Obermiller, UW-Superior and Janelle Field-Rohrer, Teacher, Caledonia, MN deserve credit for these ideas.)


A lively set of presentations on “Teaching About Controversial Topics in the Middle and High School History Classroom” provided concrete examples from grant teachers who are continually challenging themselves and their students to think about history in new ways.  Rick Whiting (Teacher, Ashland) anchored the discussion with a thoughtful approach to how we define controversial topics at different educational levels. Amy Davies-Wiebusch (Teacher, Drummond) outlined clear and useful guidelines for teachers about introducing controversial topics in the classroom, and strategies for dealing in a professional manner with concerns raised by parents, administrators, students, or colleagues. Dave Johnson (teacher formerly of La Crosse, now somewhere "out east") provided a plethora of examples of lesson plans he has used on McCarthyism, the Cold War, Imperialism, and Twentieth Century leaders. Everyone enjoyed seeing these three teachers in action and learning about the resources they had to offer.


Finally, Gregory Wegner (UW-La Crosse, Educational Studies) presented and led discussion on the ways in which universities and public schools can collaborate effectively. Greg suggested that the group consider forming an organization to sustain the conversations and collaborations in the grant project. One possibility would be a state chapter of the National Council for History Education. Future grant-writing opportunities should be explored as well, to continue the project.



April 2004: History and the Environment


Friday's Keynote Presentation, "The River We Have Wrought," was delivered by John Anfinson, PhD and author of The River We Have Wrought:  A History of the Upper Mississippi River (University of Minnesota Press, 2003).  Dr. Anfinson has been studying the upper Mississippi River for more than 20 years. He is currently the historian for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), a unit of the National Park Service.  Prior to this, he worked as a historian for the St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers for nearly 20 years.  He is also a founding member and currently vice-chair of Friends of the Mississippi River, an organization that focuses on the environmental health of the Mississippi in the Twin Cities area.


Saturday's program, "Teaching History for Understanding," featured Bill Cerbin, Professor of Psychology and Assistant to the Provost at UW-La Crosse. Dr. Cerbin has been twice named a Carnegie Scholar with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  As a Carnegie Scholar he studied the development of student understanding in a problem-based learning course he teaches. This work is accessible  through the Carnegie Foundation Knowledge Media Laboratory, http://km12.carnegiefoundation.org/kml/login/. Currently he is conducting a project with university faculty in several disciplines to do "Lesson Study," a process of careful classroom inquiry in which instructors collectively design, teach, observe and revise a single class lesson. He has given numerous workshop and seminar presentations related to teaching for understanding.



June 2004:  Major Successes and Failures in the 20th Century


The final week-long colloquium, focused on the major events of the twentieth century, such as the two World Wars and the Cold War. Participants examined how Americans describe their successes and failures and whether the U.S. has realized the promise of a democracy. The colloquium will be held at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.


This summer Allida Black was our principal historian. Dr. Black is Research Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University and Project Director and Editor of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, a project designed to teach and apply Eleanor Roosevelt’s writings and discussions of human rights and democratic politics. She is the author of several books, including Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism (Columbia University Press, 1995), “What I Want to Leave Behind:”  Democracy and the Selected Articles of Eleanor Roosevelt (Carlson Publishing, April 1995); Courage In a Dangerous World:  The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt (Columbia University Press, 1999), and, with Jewel Fenzi, Democratic Women:  An Oral History of the Women’s National Democratic Club (WNDC Educational Foundation, 2000), as well as numerous articles.  Her current book project, First Women:  Power, Image and Politics from Betty Ford through Hillary Rodham Clinton, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2005.  She is also working on a book project of collected writings on human rights.  She has written teachers’ guides for documentaries on the lives of Marian Anderson and Frederick Douglass, and has served as and advisor to the PBS “American Experience” documentary on Eleanor Roosevelt.  Allida Black is also active as an exhibit curator, a curriculum developer, and a public servant on the Human Rights Commission.   

August 2004: Teachers' In-Service


Cesa-12 and La Crosse School Districts held in-services, open to all social studies teachers in grades 6-12. The emphasis was on cooperative lesson planning as a tool for improving historical understanding in the classroom.

October 2004:

Revised 08/25/2008  


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