Kansas map patchwork art

Coming to the Heartland Educator Workshop

Saturday, September 25, 2021 – 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. (Virtual, Zoom)

KASC and CLACS are excited to offer a grant-supported educator workshop, which is coordinated in partnership with the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities and the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas. The virtual weekend educator workshop engages teachers in matters of migration to Kansas as well as the history of immigration from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The workshop consists of several sessions led by KU faculty and staff who will share content and practical knowledge with participants, including training in the use of technologies and digital humanities resources. Workshop facilitators will help teachers to integrate the curriculum of tracing migration to Kansas utilizing a “personalized learning” instructional design approach. Content will center on historical waves of immigrations and the reasons that have brought people from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America to the Heartland; the stories are often fascinating in their uniquenesses and commonalities and often we find that it is educationally captivating to learn about the unexpected ways that history connects to the present, especially if the content resonates with a student’s background.

One example of an immigrant experience that we would like to highlight occurs during a wave of immigration to the state of Kansas in the construction of railroads, a unique facet of many Midwestern towns. The rapid growth of railroads post-Civil War and during the Reconstruction era was a response to an existing need to connect urban cities to rural towns. Growing settlements in the western mountains and Pacific coast caused the U.S. frontier to push across the Kansas plains. In order to meet the demands of future development, the railroads presented a necessary means to link these widespread regions with one another. Often a town's survival depended on whether or not it was serviced by a railroad line, which meant that great celebrations greeted railroad officials and construction crews as the tracks reached more and more distant towns. However, the tracks required continual maintenance to remain safe, and section crews maintained six-to-eight-mile stretches of track. These were the hardest railroad jobs and often only recently freed Black people and new immigrants were willing to take on the challenge that built the Heartland into what it is today.

The guided-project broadly asks the question: “what brings us to the Heartland?” All of us have our unique family stories that tell of how and why we arrived and stayed. Therefore, the unit can facilitate students’ learning about: 1) the history global migration to the Midwest; 2) a diverse depiction of Kansas history, including major historical figures, events, and periods that shaped the state; 3) Kansans who have fought for equal rights and social justice; and 4) an exploration of personal family heritage (family tree), and more. As part of the project, students will conduct primary research and seek out secondary sources in order to retell their family's “Coming to the Heartland” story. Teachers will be provided training and resources to tailor the content for their classroom settings, considering grade levels, different scales, state standards, behaviors, etc. Teachers will also be prepared to teach the curriculum in-person or remotely by developing distinct synchronous and asynchronous educational activities. We expect that students will hone their digital research skills in completing a family heritage and storytelling unit-based project, which also develops their literacy skills and builds knowledge in language arts, social studies, and fine arts. In particular, this project allows students to learn about issues affecting African, Latin American and Caribbean immigrant communities and heritage families; it intentionally positions students as knowledge producers, calling upon their awareness and critical understanding of their “roots” in the state of Kansas and their neighborhoods; ideally, it will let the diversity in your classroom flourish.

All attendees will receive a free copy of The Harvest by Tomás Rivera. For teachers wanting to incorporate The Harvest into classroom curriculum, classroom sets will also be available to teachers free of charge.