SEM history teacher Douglas Hopkins will present on his unique Western New York History class at the National Council for History Education National Conference in April. He's also at work on a textbook for the class. Picture is of Doug and Kyle who both teach at SEM, and their daughter Eliza '13 at the graduation of their daughter Abigail '16.
By Erin St. John Kelly, Director of Communications
SEM history teacher Douglas Hopkins will present at the National Council for History Education National Conference in April. His session, Digging in the Backyard - Immersion in Study of Local History Taps Students' Natural Curiosity is a perfect contribution to the conference theme: Place and Time.
"It's a chance to find other people trying to do the same thing, teaching local history in cities around the country." said Doug. It's not typical urban and state history which is anecdotal. I'm using local history to help students connect with their national history."
Doug's Western New York history class has been a freshman core requirement since 2014. It was added to our curriculum when the history department resequenced its offerings to map them most effectively and coherently. The curriculum starts where we live and extends further with each year. Freshmen take Western New York History, sophomores take U.S. history or AP U.S. history, and juniors and seniors choose from a host of electives from AP World to Crossfire Hurricane: The Tumultuous 60's.
"I didn't think I was going to like it, I didn't really think Buffalo was that big of a deal. But it turns out Buffalo is a big part of America's history," said Mary Goetz '24, who is in the class now. "I talk about it with my parents at the dinner table because they don't know anything even though they grew up in Amherst!"
Doug has created a unique curriculum for SEM and is now at work on a textbook about Western New York history. "I've been out looking for this book and I haven't found it."
Doug said the owner of Talking Leaves bookstore contributed to his realization that he should make his own textbook. He said that people are asking for books about our regional history "all the time" and I have nothing to give them!
"There's a hunger for families and young people to learn about Buffalo and Western New York history and nothing exists," Doug said.
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