Making history: Teachers analyze Civil War documents

Middle and upper school history teachers participated in Professional Development Day April 9 at the Huntington Library in San Marino to improve their teaching skills as a department and examine historical documents from the Civil War.

The Huntington Library contains 15,922 Civil War telegrams between Abraham Lincoln, his Cabinet and officers of the Union Army. Teachers viewed this collection, analyzed primary documents and decoded military messages sent by the union armies to gain insight into the time period.

History teacher Ken Neisser said he enjoyed spending a day learning history with teachers whom he does not see very often.

“It was an opportunity for us to be off campus, focusing on how we teach and what we teach,” Neisser said. “With our two campuses it is always great when both sections of the same department can get together and spend time together, especially doing history. I especially liked seeing the original letters, sketchbooks and kinds of things that they collected.”

Teachers had free time to explore the library’s artwork and galleries. Then, they attended a lecture connecting post-Civil War history with the West led by USC history professor Bill Deverell. Deverell discussed the impact of the Civil War on modern institutions and western life. Middle School History/Social Studies Department Head Kyong Pak said that she enjoyed the trip and found the presentation useful.

“I learned so much, and I know I will incorporate some of his lecture into my seventh grade Civil War unit,” Pak said. “Also, the setting of our trip was beautiful. We had time to stroll through the Huntington Library on a beautiful sunny day, making it a much more pleasurable educational experience than sitting inside a classroom all day.”

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