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Published December 09, 2020
As schools across Wyoming face a growing need for virtual education resources, the University of Wyoming Wallop Civic Engagement Program shifted its focus to address the need.
Through the creation of a virtual curriculum catalog, new free resources will be available for Wyoming teachers, with the first set of virtual catalog courses available Tuesday, Dec. 15. They can be found on UW’s WyoLearn platform at www.uwyo.edu/wyolearn/ by clicking on the link, titled “Malcolm Wallop Civic Engagement Project,” or going to https://civic.catalog.instructure.com/. Both links arrive at the same webpage; click on the “Wallop K-12 Curriculum Project-Social Studies” course. A helpful WyoLearn step-by-step guide is available at www.uwyo.edu/wyolearn/guides/students/course-enrollment.html.
The virtual library includes short video presentations across a range of topics, such as civics, civic engagement, government, history, geography and economics -- all from UW faculty and partners from Wyoming community colleges and public experts.
Along with brief video courses, the project provides an accompanying teacher resource guide, including discussion questions, and offers teachers the opportunity to schedule a live chat-back, an “Ask Me Anything” session with the expert presenters to delve deeper into each topic.
The catalog of resources provides content in correlation with the six Wyoming social studies content standards: citizenship (government and democracy); culture and cultural diversity; production, distribution and consumption (economics); time, continuity and change (history); people, places and environments (geography); and technology, literacy and global connections.
The Wallop Civic Engagement Program K-12 Curriculum Project represents a collaboration among UW’s College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies; the Office of Engagement and Outreach; and UW’s College of Education Trustees Education Initiative. The project focuses on student education and virtual K-12 curriculum as part of its broader statewide community engagement commitment.
“The innovative, interdisciplinary outreach effort to partner with Wyoming schools to provide digital resources that address specific curricular needs offers an excellent example of how UW can be a 21st century land-grant university true to Wyoming roots,” UW President Ed Seidel says.
The project is inspired by former Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop who, in his distinguished career serving in the U.S. Senate for three terms and in the Wyoming Legislature, is remembered for his commitment to civil discourse, public education and public service. The project is made possible through the support of the Tucker Foundation, Rocky Mountain Power Foundation and donors.
The Wallop program began in 2017 to help Wyoming communities and to support UW faculty and student research opportunities. Jean Garrison, a UW professor of political science and international studies in the School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies, directs the program. She has served a number of administrative roles, including as founding director of UW’s Office of Engagement and Outreach, and Center for Global Studies.
Jason McConnell, an assistant professor of political science in the School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies, co-directs the K-12 curriculum project. He also is a past recipient of a Malcolm Wallop Faculty Fellowship.
“This project has been a valuable UW partnership with teachers in Sheridan and other communities from the start and, with COVID-19, we found a way to shift our gears and make this resource available to teachers across the state,” Garrison says. “We are addressing an immediate need but also developing a sustainable model that addresses UW’s statewide land-grant mission virtually. As we proceed, the Wallop project intends to expand the catalog by taking feedback from teachers about what content their students need most.”
Mike Thomas, a Sheridan High School teacher who has been a partner with the Wallop program, says the K-12 curriculum project is a “21st century, cutting-edge resource for students, teachers and the public.”
“I have firsthand experience regarding the impact on student learning through this project. My students were able to engage with civic experts who were able to relate civic engagement to young people,” he says. “I believe programs like the Wallop K-12 Curriculum Project will excite, motivate and help our future leaders develop the knowledge, skills and abilities to be effective leaders in our communities.”
Danny Dale, UW’s College of Arts and Sciences interim dean, notes the unique approach of the platform of engaging Wyoming students.
“It has been designed from the start to collaborate with teachers and Wyoming educators, and to address their need for materials that speak directly to Wyoming education standards, as well as relate to broad national and international issues to Wyoming,” he says. “Professor Garrison's efforts have shown great alignment with UW President Ed Seidel's vision for how UW can serve the state as a whole.”
UW and Wyoming community college faculty, and public experts, work with UW’s College of Education instructors to share their expertise in aligning topic areas with Wyoming social studies standards. Initial topics in the project include presentations on migration from Central America; Native American skies and Indian sovereignty; economic and geopolitical issues; and women in space.
In the short videos, the experts introduce topics and further offer interesting facts typically not covered in a survey-style textbook. The recordings include thought-provoking questions about which cohorts can ask follow-up questions. Classroom teachers make use of the catalog in ways that best suit individual needs, Garrison says. Instructors can schedule a synchronous “Ask Me Anything” discussion with the faculty member or expert after the class has used the videos/handouts.