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Thursday September 29th

UNC students revamp WWI curriculum

Some educators believe that the history of World War I could be taught better.

To combat this problem, UNC graduate students are collaborating with other education leaders in and out of the state to create a revamped World War I curriculum.

Andy Mink, executive director of LEARN NC, is principal investigator for the group of graduate students, K-12 teachers and representatives from multiple education boards in North Carolina and Virginia.

The goal of the project is to personalize the war by finding the stories of people involved in the conflict, said William Melega, a Chapel Hill High School history teacher involved in the project.

“We’re going to work in an interstate learning community … researching and coming up with a really good narrative,” he said.

Danielle Parker, a graduate student in the UNC School of Education, said the group’s combined efforts will benefit the teaching of WWI.

“When you are able to collaborate as a teacher for professional development and be able to be in community with people that are teaching kind of teaching the same subject, it makes you a better teacher and you are able to have different ideas,” she said.

Mink said the project is on track to completed by fall 2014 and the new curriculum will be provided to all teachers as an additional resource.

The $357,000 project will be fully funded by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Tim Nosal, director of public affairs for the American Battle Monuments Commission, said the group is going to Verdun, Paris, in July, on the centennial anniversary of WWI, to get a more personal understanding of the war.

“What we hope to see is a way to connect the individuals that are buried overseas into American classrooms, whether it is through community learning, or possibly in a fine arts class looking at the architecture of the memorials in the cemetery themselves,” he said.

He said the group will visit Meuse-Argonne, which has the largest number of American soldiers buried in Europe with 14,246.

Katherine Gulledge, a history teacher at McDougle Middle School in Chapel Hill, said the traditional way World War I is taught focuses largely on memorization, neglecting the experience of the people involved.

“As a history teacher, experiencing the places where history happened makes me better because I can describe it in a way that is relatable to students,” she said in an email.

Mink said the group will also be using the money to make the material more interactive in the hopes of offering students a more dynamic learning experience.

“Imagine standing in front of a class and having a smart board swiping a headstone — that person’s narrative comes forward.”

Nicole Bauer, a graduate student in the UNC history department who is working with the project, said these kinds of efforts are great at getting student’s attention.

“Using the advantages of technology to help students to think of history of something that’s experienced, that can only help more people get excited.”

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