New and Ongoing Programs

Teaching Sierra Leone History with Technology 

Inspired by the Robina-funded “Shared Histories” workshop series, the Sierra Leone teachers in the group have requested that the Gilder Lehrman Center work with them to facilitate the incorporation of supplementary materials—primary documents, graphs and tables, video clips, music and photographs—into Sierra Leone classrooms. With relatively simple tools such as laptops and a projector, they are excited to think about how classroom teaching in the country could be dramatically improved. The proposed “Sierra Leone History: Teaching with Documents” project is meant to respond to these needs. The Gilder Lehrman Center is developing a team of US, Scottish, and Sierra Leonean teachers, historians, archivists, and digital technology specialists to take part in a pilot teacher-training workshop to be held at the Fourah Bay College campus of the University of Sierra Leone. That workshop will train Sierra Leone secondary school history teachers in document-based learning and teaching with technology, and will assist teachers in the development of the tools, resources, and strategies needed to bring a richer, more visual, document-based history of Sierra Leone into their classrooms. The participating Sierra Leonean teachers will be recruited from the Center’s current group of secondary school history teachers, who were originally selected to take part in this program by Dr. Joe Alie, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of History and African Studies at the University of Sierra Leone. Two or three of each participating school’s top history students also will be invited to participate, as will several students from Dr. Alie’s advanced history course on Sierra Leone. Also participating will be Abu Koroma, the archivist and records manager of the Sierra Leone Public Archives. 

One component of the project will be the development of a digital library of primary and secondary resources on the history of Sierra Leone, compiled by historians and archivists and aligned with the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Sierra Leonean History. Among the program’s staff will be experienced educators who will conduct daily training sessions in document-based instruction. Workshop participants will be instructed in basic archival research by historians and archivists connected with the Public Archive at Fourah Bay College. Participants also will visit Sierra Leone’s National Museum, Bunce Island, and other historic and cultural sites, and will consider how the nation’s art, music, and literature, as well as the lived experiences of its citizens, form a constituent part of the nation’s history. Teams of students and teachers will take part in a culminating event, where they will present short document-based presentations to their colleagues, families and friends, and the general public. Upon the completion of the workshop, the program will track and support the progress of the participating teachers and students as they incorporate the skills they’ve learned into their classroom teaching, and will track and measure changes in the WASSCE scores of participating classrooms. Based on the lessons learned from this pilot program, a final report will make recommendations on how to introduce these resources into a broad cross-section of Sierra Leonean schools. The Gilder Lehrman Center is in conversation with Eddie Mandhry, Director for Africa and the Middle East in Yale University’s Office for Global Strategy, about funding opportunities for this project. 

South Africa: Building a Culture of Professional Development 

The “Shared Histories” workshop series has led to conversations between the Gilder Lehrman Center and South African teachers interested in creating in culture of professional development for history teachers in the country. Marjorie Brown, a teacher who participated in the “Shared Histories” group and President of the South African Society for History Teaching (SASHT), has put the GLC in touch with the Director of the South African History Archive, Geraldine Frieslaar. This archive began collecting primary source documents immediately following the fall of apartheid and has since built a robust archive of materials related to South Africa’s institutionalized racist system and the movement against it. In partnership with the GLC, these organizations are interested in, first, building a pilot, document-based professional development workshop geared toward Johannesburg teachers, modeled after the GLC’s “Shared Histories” workshops. Instructors would include scholars and graduate students from Yale as well as from South Africa. The second stage would be to invite two or three teachers from each of nine provinces in South Africa to meet in Johannesburg for a ten-day workshop, including historic site visits, document-based workshops, and lectures and discussions with historians and activists. The third stage would involve professional development outreach throughout the country, with workshops in each of the provinces geared toward regional issues. Additional partners in the proposed project include the Nelson Mandela Foundation and South Africa’s national Apartheid Museum. 

Connecting Teachers to Teachers 

We’ve grown in numbers since the formation of our original cohort of teachers. Two Connecticut-based teachers from Norwich Academy are working with Johannesburg teachers, who they had the opportunity to visit in the summer of 2018. And three more teachers from Connecticut and Massachusetts are interested in connecting with other teachers in South Africa. We expect to recruit more teachers from the area at our May Transatlantic Histories Symposium. 

Connecting Student Activists 

Working with Seth Mazibuko, a South African human rights activist and one of the leaders of the Soweto Uprising, we will be using internet technologies to connect students activists from New Haven, Johannesburg and Freetown to discuss the rights of young people, reforms in education, women’s rights, climate change, and other pressing topics.