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State history conference at Niagara U to focus on value of social studies

At a time when much of the focus in education falls on math and reading, historians across New York want to help teachers shift some of the attention back to social studies.

That is one of the themes of the annual Conference on New York State History, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at Niagara University and includes a day of programs aimed at teachers.

“If you know anything about social studies and education, it’s been kind of in the doldrums,” said S.G. Grant, a professor of social studies education at Binghamton University. “Standardized testing can be a blessing and a curse. If there’s no test, some feel it gets neglected.”

Grant will be among the speakers at the 36th annual conference, which will bring to Lewiston about 150 history professionals from a variety of fields, including museum workers, librarians, preservationists and educators. Teachers can get professional development credit for participating in the conference.

The topics range from using history to promote tourism and urban planning to incorporating historical primary sources into the Common Core Learning Standards.

Teachers also will have the opportunity to network with history professionals from across the state who may be able to guide them in the future. “That’s where some of the best ideas come from,” City Honors School teacher Richard Pyszczek said of his experiences at such conferences. “As educators, especially social studies educators, we work best when we share a lot of ideas with each other.”

The keynote speeches, including Grant’s on Saturday, are open to the public, not just those registered for the conference. There will be a session on the state’s new social studies curriculum, and teachers will have a chance to participate in a hands-on project using historical sources.

Grant will update participants on the College, Career and Civic Life (C3) initiative, which has aimed to support states in developing a stronger social studies curriculum – and provide resources to teachers.

“There’s been a response to this feeling that No Child Left Behind and Common Core are leaving social studies behind,” Grant said.

“We’ve come to realize that since Common Core advocates more ambitious reading, that creates an opportunity.”

For information on the conference, visit nysha.org. email: tlankes@buffnews.com