Workshop focuses on Liggett’s place-based humanities methods

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 30, 2021

 Educators from metro Detroit and out of state visit the Provencal-Weir House in Grosse Pointe Farms July 15 as part of a University Liggett School Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning workshop.

Educators from metro Detroit and out of state visit the Provencal-Weir House in Grosse Pointe Farms July 15 as part of a University Liggett School Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning workshop.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS/WOODS — Educators from metro Detroit and out of state learned a number of teaching strategies when they recently participated in a University Liggett School Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning workshop.

Liggett, located in Grosse Pointe Woods, welcomed 20 teachers to its There’s No Place Like Home: Place-Based Humanities Summer Workshop July 12-23. The visiting teachers received an up-close view and understanding regarding how Liggett uses place-based humanities while in the classroom.

Place-based education engages students in local heritage, cultures and history as a foundation to study language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum.

Each day, the visiting teachers went on a field trip to learn how Liggett teaches humanities courses through regional institutions and artifacts. The guest educators were from various districts throughout metro Detroit, including Detroit Public Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools and Plymouth-Canton Community Schools. Teachers also came from Oakland County, Dallas and Wichita, Kansas.

Liggett history educators Adam Hellebuyck and Chris Hemler led the workshop. One aspect of the workshop was to demonstrate how school districts can partner with local historical societies to teach in the classroom. The guest teachers were asked to design ways that they would expose their students to such history.

On July 15, the teachers toured the Provencal-Weir House in Grosse Pointe Farms with Grosse Pointe Historical Society Vice President Stuart Grigg. Each teacher was asked to find an object they would use to connect with their students, and then shared their ideas. According to the Grosse Pointe Historical Society website, gphistorical.org, the  Provencal-Weir House Greek revival farmhouse is believed to be the community’s oldest surviving residence.

“We ask them to put together a lesson plan based on what we talked about. It’s a new endeavor to see all the innovation work the teachers were doing,” Liggett project coordinator Annemarie Harris said. “They want to share it with other teachers so they can use it in their classes. We’re taking them to different places. It’s showing them how we energize our students.”

The group held discussions after each field trip to talk about how they could incorporate more place-based learning into the curriculum. Over the two-week workshop, the teachers visited several spots, including the River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe, several Detroit churches and museums, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, and Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills. The workshop was funded through the Edward E. Ford Foundation, so the participants did not have to pay tuition.

“Everything is going very well,” Hellebuyck said. “We have a group of teachers really learning about place-based learning in general. Our history is rich in Detroit, and every place was chosen for different reasons. We think we’re onto something with place-based learning and we wanted to share it. We’re hoping this is something we can continue every year.”

During their field trip to the Guardian Building in Detroit, several Liggett students joined the teachers to share how place-based humanities inspired them. Another field trip showed the visiting teachers a behind-the-scenes look at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Stefan Carter, who teaches middle school social studies at the Carver STEM Academy in Detroit, was among the attendees.

“It’s an excellent program,” Carter said. “I was recommended to come by a colleague.”

He’s already had some experience teaching place-based learning in the classroom. He said he’d “definitely” plan a field trip to the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House for his students.

“This will show them this is attainable if they work hard, to show them what’s out there and to give them different perspectives,” Carter said. “They should learn more than just inside the classroom.”

When Plymouth-Canton K-12 curriculum coordinator Rania Hammoud learned about the workshop, she asked permission from the district to register.

“We are going through a revamp of our curriculum and looking at some unique resources to incorporate into our curriculum,” Hammoud said. “I went to my superintendent, who thought this would be a great opportunity to look for ways to engage our students and include local resources into our curriculum. This is the best workshop I’ve attended. We are immersed in the experience. We’re doing a lot of exploring and learning; it’s not just sitting and listening.”

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