Did you know that in 2014, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted a survey on history and civics education? They found that 18% of 8th graders were proficient in US History. Pretty disappointing statistic right?

Here’s what one teacher is doing to change that.

U.S. History through Media, Design & Art.

The day a student told him that “Martin Luther King was our first Black President,” educator Nick Schwab, from Huntington Beach High School, knew things had to change.

Using his social studies, and photography background, and his desire to better prepare students for the world of work, Schwab created a CTA pathway he calls U.S. History through Media, Design & Art.

U.S. History through Media, Design & Art is a program that explores the history of the United States from the lens of a designer and an artist. The subject infuses digital media technology skills with critical social science knowledge and perspective. 

Over the course of a year, students engage with historical events and cultural developments of American History by analyzing and creating visual media to develop a portfolio of digital design projects. It’s a way of teaching history that:

  • connects students to the outside world, 
  • helps them better develop skills they need for their future careers, 
  • makes their learning sticky, and 
  • teaches them key digital and media literacy skills. 

Here are some of the key tasks they complete over the course of the year.

  • A social media campaign to understand the War of Independence and the writing of the Constitution.
  • The creation of web and graphic design materials to explore Civil Rights.
  • A photostory to analyze and understand the “First TV War”, and
  • The production of a short documentary to highlight trends in American History.

Here is Schwab’s class photo story, ‘Conflict in America’. What’s impressive is that the students completed as a class whilst working remotely.

Telling Untold Stories

Over the course of the year Schwab’s class complete four themed units.

  • Democracy & Compromise
  • Conflict & War
  • Rights and Freedom
  • Economy and Industry

and engage in social media to share what they’ve learned. As part of Unit 3 – Rights and Freedom, Schwab’s students are sharing untold stories on Twitter to educate others about less well-known stories in American history.

That’s where UntoldEdu comes in. Untold is a growing collection of stories about American history that are unlikely to be seen in history textbooks. Schwab’s class watched and shared many of the stories, to inspire and educate others via their Twitter accounts.

Here are some examples of the tweets that his students shared.

What’s Next?

Now Schwab’s students are participating in the first-ever Untold Pitch competition. Along with High Tech High, students are pitching to the team at Makematic, the Driving Force Institute of Public Engagement, and the Sierra Club ideas for stories that should be made into films. The ideas will fall under the categories of indigenous stories and the environment.

Engagement, Engagement, Engagement

But have the students enjoyed the elective? You’ll not be surprised to hear that Schwab’s ratings for this class are the ‘highest of any class I’ve taught.’ 

Let’s face it when we design educational experiences for students that are relevant, authentic, and develop key media and digital skills, it has to be a win-win situation don’t you think?

Follow Schwab’s class on @americabydesign.

Follow UntoldEdu on: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and check out the videos on YouTube,