Bringing Iowa history to the state’s classrooms
As a statewide advisory group works to bring Iowa history more into the mainstream of Iowa’s social studies classes, it’s fun to consider some interesting facts:
- The town of Elkader was named after Abd el-Kader, a young Algerian hero who led his people in a resistance to French colonialism between 1830 and 1847.
- In the mid-20th century, 25 percent of all high school girls playing basketball in the United States were from Iowa, thanks to the six-player girls’ basketball.
- George Gallup, founder of the Gallup Poll, was born in Jefferson, Iowa.
- The first Muslim mosque in American was in Cedar Rapids.
- The federal government gave away one-ninth of all the land in Iowa to four railroad companies.
- In 1969, three students from Des Moines were expelled from school from wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War. Their case went to court, known as Tinker v. the Des Moines School Board, in which the Supreme Court ruled that students do not lose their rights of free speech when they go to school.
- Arabella Mansfield became the first female lawyer in the United States in 1869.
- The Littleton family from near Toolseboro, a tiny village in Louisa County, lost all six sons in the Civil War.
- Des Moines’ Merle Hay Road was named after the first Iowa casualty in World War I, Merle Hay from Glidden.
- Templeton Rye whiskey from Templeton was said to be the only booze during Prohibition that was asked for by name.
It's the hope of the Iowa History Advisory Council that kindergarten-through-12th-grade students and teachers will know more about the rich history of the state. Convened by the Iowa Department of Education in 2015, the council - made up of educators, college professors and members from a wide range of history organizations - is working to create and sustain a website to serve as the hub for Iowa history resources.
The council also is working to create a variety of Iowa history curriculum materials that support new Iowa history standards and promote best practices in the teaching and learning of state and local history. In addition, the council will coordinate and promote professional development opportunities in Iowa history for teachers through the Area Education Agencies, Iowa cultural partners, and higher education.
The council’s work coincides with a $100,000 grant that the Library of Congress awarded the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to create curricular materials using primary sources from both the Library of Congress and the State Historical Museum of Iowa. The project will focus on a range of topics in Iowa history, including the Underground Railroad, Herbert Hoover and Iowa’s peace-making role in the Cold War.
The council put out a report last fall with recommendations on how to improve teaching Iowa history in classrooms.