Connecting with students through assignments that capture their attention, make the material come alive and push them to showcase their learning in various modalities can be a real challenge. But Coronado High School social studies teacher Thomas Roddy, M.Ed., M.S., has done just that with the students in his course, “U.S. History since 1877.” The course is one of several Collegiate Academy offerings at the high school where students earn college credit from the University of Nevada, Reno. As a Collegiate Academy teacher, Roddy collaborates with University history professors to develop the college-level curriculum – a partnership that often results in innovative techniques.
Roddy’s course covers U.S. history from the Reconstruction Era to the present day, and the social studies teacher wanted to find an artistic way for his students to showcase their understanding of the New Deal.
Roddy is a regular reader of Uni Watch, a media project blog that deep dives into sports uniforms or as they call it “athletic aesthetics.” While perusing the site, he was inspired by another teacher’s assignment with uniforms.
“I was in the midst of teaching the Great Depression, and I had the epiphany that instead of having students research a New Deal agency and have them present in a traditional sense, I could have them take an artistic approach,” Roddy said.
The creative assignment was set up with the premise that the federal government had a basketball league, and each New Deal Era agency had a team in the league. Students were then asked to research an agency and design a corresponding basketball uniform for the team that incorporated their mission/purpose. Students thrived with the project, creating unique and innovative uniforms and putting a lot of effort into understanding the details of the agencies they researched. The project was well received by the publication that inspired the project, and Uni Watch featured the students’ work on its website, calling the project “an ingenious way to merge American history and uniforms.”
Roddy regularly creates assignments that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of subjects in a unique way.
“Another assignment students responded to was a budgeting activity where they were all given a set amount of money and had to budget for a family of three during the 1920s and 1930s,” Roddy said. “They were given different scenarios to work through as the Great Depression worsened. This experiential activity develops their historical empathy and really helps them connect with the struggles of living in America in the 1930s.”
These kinds of assignments that help students connect on a deeper level to the material are crucial for Collegiate Academy students. This is Roddy’s first year teaching for the Collegiate Academy.
“The most rewarding component of working with Collegiate Academy students is their natural curiosity,” Roddy said. “Since the pandemic, it's been really hard to foster historical inquiry with typical high school students, but in the Collegiate Academy, students want to learn and are curious about how we got to where we are as a society. This course develops their critical thinking skills around the ‘5 Cs of History,’ which helps students make sense of the world in which they live.”
About the Collegiate Academy
The Collegiate Academy is a dual-credit program in which Nevada high school students can take college courses and earn college credits at a discounted rate through the University of Nevada, Reno. Courses are taught in the high schools during the student's regular schedule of classes. Students earn their credits by taking the course as opposed to the more common test-for-credit structure. The credits earned may be seamlessly used at the University of Nevada, Reno or transferred to colleges and universities nationwide and may enable students to graduate from college early. This dual-credit program is made possible through a partnership between the University and school districts throughout Nevada.