Social studies educators connecting local history to the classroom

July 12, 2021 – Seeing Gullah-Geechee culture up close and personal was invaluable to Eric Van Gundy.

The 12-year educator said his professional development excursion to the Kingsley Plantation and other local historical sites in Jacksonville this summer will enhance how he teaches history to his juniors at First Coast High School. 

“Visiting a historical site where history occurred and affected future human events excites me and motivates me to deliver these stories and histories to my students,” said Van Gundy.

VanGundy was one of 54 social studies teachers who participated in the annual summer professional development series.

This series include visiting historical sites such as Xiemenez-Fatio House & Lincolnville Museum, Kingsley Gullah-Geechee, and Castillo de San Marcos Fort Mose. During these visits, they interact with professors, park rangers and professional docents who discuss the history of the sites.

For example, at the Kingsley Plantation, teachers dove into the history of the plantation’s namesakes, Zephaniah Kingsley and his West African wife, Anna Kingsley, who owned and managed the land.

“These trainings bring history to life, engage the teachers more, and cause them to want to learn more about their local history,” said Philip Little, who as a district social studies coordinator, has been organizing these professional development series for 15 years. “They bring this enthusiasm and engagement back to their classrooms which in turn engages their students.”

Little said it is important to incorporate local history in the teaching of history.

“This type of summer professional development is beneficial to both teachers and students because we focus on local history that has had national impact,” said Little.