Our Workshops

Weekend Workshops

Thinking Historically through Writing: Case Studies in American History

December 7 – December 9, 2012

“Considering the vast differences between those who attended high school in 1917 and the near-universal enrollments of today, the stability of students’ ignorance is amazing. The whole world has turned on its head, but one thing has stayed the same: kids don’t know history,” Sam Wineburg writes in Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. But what does “know history” mean? In the classroom, history teachers work with a mix of methods and techniques for giving students basic historical information—the sequence of historical periods; dates of important events; key figures in social, political, and cultural movements. It is often more difficult, however, to impart an understanding of how the past is constructed and how historians work. Just as the excitement of studying science comes from conducting experiments and from learning how scientists make discoveries and verify data, the pleasure of studying history comes from learning how historians think about the past.

This workshop explores the origin of the environmental movement in the United States, focusing on the struggle over the water-rights decision by the United States Congress to pass the Raker Bill of 1913, which effectively allowed California to build the O’Shaughnessy Dam, thereby causing the waters of the Tuolumne River to flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley, a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park. This legislation can be seen as one of the key turning points in the history of the American environmental movement; its passage, opposed by John Muir, naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, is part of the United States’s long history with the use and conservation of water. Working with this legislation and the records of the congressional debate that followed, the workshop explores the origin of our current struggle over how best to preserve the natural world for everyone’s enjoyment, and conserve natural resources for the economic benefit of all. The workshop models writing to read strategies for analyzing primary documents, secondary texts, and visual artifacts, to help students understand how historians interpret evidence and how they construct stories based on those interpretations.  

5:30 p.m. Friday - 12:30 p.m. Sunday 

$650, which includes tuition, meals (excluding Saturday dinner), and anthology of texts. It does not include housing. Upon registration, participants receive a list of local area accommodations. The Holiday Inn in Kingston, New York (845-338-0400), offers rooms at a discount for those reserving at least two weeks in advance. 

Graduate Credit: Through Bard's Master of Arts in Teaching Program, workshop participants may earn one graduate credit for each weekend workshop; participants must, in addition to completing the workshop, write and submit a detailed report and a lesson plan on using writing in the classroom. Click for more information.