If you’re reading this blog post, you might be of the type known to “nerd out” on Atlanta.
You might study old maps of the city, looking for clues to its structure before the interstates changed everything. Or you might pore over early-twentieth-century photos of downtown, amazed by the skyscraper ambitions of Five Points and the scraggly density of Decatur Street. You’ve probably been on the 1906 Race Riot tour. You think about what Atlanta used to be like fifty or one hundred and fifty years ago, and you strive to understand our city’s present predicaments, while appreciating its current achievements. To experience daily life in Atlanta while studying its histories, its human ecologies, its economies, and its cultures is unquestionably an enriched reality.
Some of us who teach for a living want to share this experience with our students, so that they might use such knowledge as they navigate and get to know their city. But it’s not just about spawning the next generation of Atlanta nerds; using local resources to teach about broader issues also helps students to understand how abstract concepts play out on the ground, perhaps even in their own neighborhoods. As a pedagogical method, teaching the local is hard to beat. And when students have deeper knowledge of their context and their environment, they will be better informed as local citizens. That’s good for our city, too.
To help teachers facilitate student engagement with the city, some of the members of the Atlanta Studies Network have created a new complementary website: Teaching Atlanta. When we created this new site, we had in mind as our audience instructors at the college and high school level who are interested in using Atlanta as a topic or a case study in their curriculum. So far we’ve collected a dozen course syllabi, and a dozen assignments, from teachers at colleges all around the Metro area, and from many different disciplines. We are also working with Lab Atlanta, a phenomenally innovative honors curriculum for high school sophomores that’s kicking off in January. Beginning this spring, we’ll be holding workshops for teachers, in hopes of acquainting them not only with resources, but also with one another, beyond the boundaries of institution or discipline. By focusing our shared attention on a common endeavor, we are creating countless opportunities for collaboration.
Teaching Atlanta connects teachers to the Atlanta Studies Network, where they can find digital resources like the ATLmaps platform, which provides instructors a classroom tool to investigate complex issues about our city. Or the Unpacking Manuel’s project, which is a great way to immerse students in Atlanta’s cultural and political history. Teaching Atlanta makes it easy for teachers to learn about how they might use these and other resources in their course assignments, and even get their students to contribute their research and creativity to these projects. The site will also encourage teachers to write blog posts and articles on the Atlanta Studies site or present at our symposium or meetups about how they are using the local in their classes.
We hope that Teaching Atlanta will be the kind of resource that inspires more people to join in. So if you are a teacher and would like to include Atlanta in your curriculum, please check us out; if you’re already teaching about Atlanta, we hope you’ll consider sharing some materials, like reading lists or assignments, on our site. Regardless, we hope that you will become part of our network by joining us for Teaching Atlanta events this coming spring.