The HIH Civic Educators Pilot

With generous funding from the Civic Switchboard initiative, members of the Hacking into History (HIH) project team partnered with local educators in Durham, North Carolina in 2022 to launch The Civic Educators Pilot project. The purpose of the pilot was to explore how primary source materials can be used in classroom settings to support place-based historical understanding. Recruited participants from the Durham Public Schools (DPS) used the HIH platform to engage students in hands-on learning about racial covenant clauses in historic property deeds, and the long history of exclusionary housing practices in Durham County and across the United States. 

January 2022. The HIH Project Team hosted a hands-on training /workshop for Durham public school teachers to learn more. We introduced the project, gathered feedback from educators on potential work, and learned about the existing curriculum. 

Some of the questions we answered included: 

  • How do educators teach about the history of housing discrimination currently?
  • What might be some curriculum tie-ins?  

We also shared a set of initial exercises developed by project team members (NCCU SLIS graduate student Genevia Chamblee-Smith and Dr. Alexandra Chassanoff) the prior year for use in an DPS 11th grade classroom with educator Allison Swain.    

February-March 2022. Following the workshop, we invited interested educators to apply to become a Civic Educator Fellow to partner with us. After reviewing applications, we selected five Fellows to develop curricular activities and exercises, review curriculum incorporation, and make recommendations for incorporating content into the existing curriculum. In addition to the HIH Platform, the curriculum might also include supplemental historical primary sources that demonstrate the impact of racial covenants on the city in the 1920s-1960s.  

Additionally, NCCU graduate student Alexis Bracey conducted an environmental scan of workshops and projects that use primary sources to teach history lessons to students.  We used this resource to plan our first Fellows workshop. 

April 2022. On Saturday, April 16th we held our first Fellows Cohort Curriculum Workshop. The primary purpose of the workshop was to identify cohort goals for classroom learning and potential needs for support. We began the workshop by posing the following question: “How is the Durham housing crisis impacting you and/or your neighborhood? What are your hopes and fears for Durham housing in the future?” 

This discussion question raised a number of other related inquiries. Some of the questions and concerns posed by educators included the following:

  • How can our students afford a place to live in the future? 
  • How can I support neighbors that have been living in the same house for decades but are being forced to leave because they can no longer afford it? 
  • How can I support teachers and students having to move out of Durham due to rising costs 
  • How to move somewhere responsibly – it’s important for people who do move to Durham to understand the housing crisis 
  • The need to pressure city officials so that people can stay in their homes. How can we mobilize people locally to find solutions? If people don’t organize together, then investors will buy up everything 
  • Watching neighbor’s children become criminalized simply because they live in the neighborhood they grew up in 

This conversation brought us far along into the workshop and provided ample opportunity for getting to know each other as fellow community members interested in advancing housing justice through education and advocacy. 

Each fellow expressed different goals for their participation in the project. One consistent theme shared by all was the interest in using primary sources for teaching students. One fellow expressed interest in “looking for ways to incorporate ‘real world stuff,’  while another fellow noted that providing students access to primary sources served as a “vehicle for social change.” 

Following a brief refresher on the project and deed transcription, we focused on two main anticipated challenges for educator fellows. 

  • First, we wanted to discuss the difficulties in bringing this sort of “data” to the classroom experience. We asked each fellow to think about how to hold space for students to engage emotionally with this content. We also checked in with fellows to ensure they felt comfortable dealing with sensitive content at this level.
  • Second, we asked fellows to share their existing approaches to similar or related content, and to imagine how they might incorporate this new content into their classroom. 

We also asked fellows to comment on potential anticipated challenges and support that might be helpful. 

At the close of the workshop, we discussed meeting the following month to review exercises and curriculum uptake. We shared a resource list that included related books, articles, websites, podcasts, and links to potential lesson plans. 

We also paired fellows with a project team member where possible, who could assist with classroom visits, answer questions about the project, and provide additional documentation of the classroom experience. To facilitate this, we developed and shared this outline for classroom visits, which includes an InfoGuide, and made a sample slide deck which we encouraged fellows and project team members to collaboratively modify as needed.   

May 2022.  We held our second and final workshop on May 14, 2022 with three fellows attending and one fellow submitting materials in absentia. Fellows discussed the exercises and curriculum they developed and shared information about classroom visits. In the coming weeks, we will focus on Fellows’ classroom experiences and share the outline for classroom visits, InfoGuide, sample slide deck, exercises and curriculum developed.  Stay tuned!