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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Consortium puts Carolina resources in K-12 classrooms

Students complete a lesson surrounding “SERVICE,” a mural in the School of Government that celebrates civil rights. (Photo: N.C. Civic Education Consortium)

With dwindling school budgets, North Carolina’s K-12 educators are often strapped for innovative classroom resources.

The N.C. Civic Education Consortium, once operated out of the School of Government and now a part of the Program in Humanities and Human Values, is lending a hand. For 15 years, the consortium has extended the University’s resources to teachers by offering workshops, lesson plans and interactive pedagogical training, all free of charge.

Christie Norris, director of K-12 outreach, said when the Program in Humanities and Human Values adopted the consortium in April, it expanded the ability to serve a workforce that increasingly is in need of places to turn.

And she would know. Norris taught middle school for 11 years before coming to the consortium where she crafts lesson plans, tests activities and develops new ways of teaching to meet North Carolina’s Essential Standards.

“You can’t possibly understand the vortex of a school unless you’ve worked in one,” Norris said. “There’s no way to get teachers to the phone, to get a piece of paper in their hands. You’re in such a tornado when you’re teaching. So the fact that they get here or come to our website is huge.”

The consortium trains approximately 250 North Carolina teachers each year. Since 2009, for example, 980 teachers have attended its programs. Norris estimates the consortium has impacted close to 100,000 of North Carolina’s students in those three years.

The database holds 514 lesson plans with 128 accompanying Power Point presentations. In 2011, lesson plans were downloaded 453,794 times by teachers not only in North Carolina, but also across the nation and abroad. (Visit database.civics.unc.edu.)

“I know how hard it is for a teacher to find time to run to the restroom, much less come up with fresh practices for the classroom,” Norris said. “These are things they can look into in their own time and print out before they go to school.”

Carolina is a rich resource for teachers, Norris said. When PlayMakers Repertory Company premiered “The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the ’61 Freedom Riders” last year, Norris knew it would be great for teachers.

“But if you’re in Cherokee, you’re probably not coming to Chapel Hill for a play,” she said. So Norris wrote six new lesson plans based on different civil rights projects.

Another lesson plan called “African-American Service and Leadership in North Carolina” provided students with posters based on the School of Government mural “SERVICE.” The mural is a creative interpretation of the 1960 Greensboro sit-in at Woolworth’s and the first in a series of murals that will commemorate the contributions of African-Americans and Native Americans to the state.

“Providing teachers with lesson plans like this means that students across the state can be exposed to such a diverse piece of art at Carolina, as well as the crucial historical picture it paints,” Norris said.

All lesson plans and activities are created by the consortium’s two-member team, tested by teachers and constantly revised and reviewed with the help of the staff at the Program in the Humanities and Human Values.

“I love to teach, and I love to write,” Norris said. “I could teach 120 students every day, but with this, I can reach thousands of students.”

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