Local History in the Classroom

Fresno State Senator Jeff Denham of Merced has introduced a resolution he hopes will get kids more interested in Valley history particularly the communities in which they live.

Local history is part of the standard curriculum for California schools most kid's study it in 2nd or third grade but Senator Jeff Denham would like to see it taught in High School classrooms.

St. Sen. Jeff Denham, Merced: "We have so much history here in our valley and we want our students to learn about it in school."

Bill Coate couldn't agree more, a history teacher for the past 36 years his challenge has been finding ways to get kids to connect to what they're reading in textbooks.

Bill Coate: "When you can involve students in their own education they become not passive recipients of the past but active participants."

Like his now famous wagon train trips across the Valley countryside that turn fifth graders into pioneers.

William Majors, Ninth Grader: "We get to go out, do a lot of stuff, and beat the books."

Or this most recent project that took his ninth grade class to Akers Cemetery in Centerville, after months of research, the students discovered that this broken tombstone belonged to a former Arkansas slave, who became a successful Valley Cattlerancher.

Robert McGaha, Ninth Grader: "It makes me wonder a lot, like who is still out there, who can we find that is related to somebody in that cemetery."

It's that kind of curiosity Denham hopes his resolution will help ignite.

Denham: "They understand more about local industry and water and why local settlers came here. Why Henry Miller located to the Central Valley there are some exciting things in our history."

Coate's students are already sharing their exciting discoveries they've published three books and their research is part of the Fresno County Historical Society archives.

Coate: "Let me invite him into this classroom let him see his vision, is here, he can see it."

Denham's resolution is asking the California State Grange to partner with Historical Societies throughout the state so they can gather and make local history information available to high school teachers.

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