SIUE graduate students and Madison Historical research assistants Lesley Thomson and Brendon Floyd lead a history lesson at Bethalto’s Civic Memorial High School.

BETHALTO - Bethalto high school students explored their parents and grandparents’ history in Madison County, creating oral histories and documenting personal artifacts, as part of a three-day history lesson presented by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville graduate students involved in Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Ill.

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The lesson complimented the vision of Robert Daiber, EdD, superintendent of the Madison County Regional Office of Education, for the incorporation of Madison Historical in area classrooms.

Leading the outreach initiative was the innovative digital repository management team, including SIUE College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Historical Studies associate professors Jason Stacy, PhD and Jeffrey Manuel, PhD, Stephen Hansen, PhD, faculty emeritus and former interim chancellor, along with undergraduate and graduate students, and alumnus Ben Ostermeier.

Madison Historical’s visit to Civic Memorial High School allowed SIUE students to take their knowledge and skills as historians, and teach high school students to apply those skills to uncover the history around them,” Stacy said. “Ultimately, many of the student’s research from the lesson will be published on Madison Historical, thereby completing a virtuous circle of teaching, learning, research and producing history between SIUE history students and U.S. history students at area schools.”

Graduate research assistants Brendon Floyd and Lesley Thomson created the lesson plan. They, along with others from the research team, actively engaged the class of students in the lesson’s activities.

“We created an experience that connected students to both their local and national histories by developing activities that asked students to either bring in personal artifacts to be documented or create an oral history that spoke to the Cold War experience in Madison County,” Floyd explained.

“The students learned how to navigate the Madison Historical online encyclopedia and digital archive, interpret artifacts, create metadata, conduct oral histories and critically think and write about how these local and personal items and interviews fit into the broader national narrative of Cold War history in the U.S.”

“There was real excitement among the students as they compared the artifacts they brought in,” said Suze Gibson, teacher at Civic Memorial High School. “Although the requirements of the project pushed some students out of their comfort zones, the project broadened the students’ perspectives well beyond the high school environment by providing an interface for them to interact with university graduate students and faculty.”

The lesson can be accessed on the educators’ page of the Madison Historical website and adapted for any middle to high school level classroom.

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“As a teacher, I appreciate the resources made available to our school through the program,” Gibson added.
“A project this extensive could not be accomplished without the cooperation and guidance provided by Madison Historical.”

According to Stacy, the Madison Historical team appreciated the opportunity to engage in genuine community learning and building while creating invaluable content for its archive. It plans to send research assistants back into area schools during the 2018-19 academic year to further encourage student engagement with the history of Madison County.

Stacy and Manuel are also offering an online summer course that will capitalize on Madison Historical’s education initiative that began summer 2017.

“Ms. Gibson’s work with her students has helped capture the essence of this initiative, and that is to record the history of Madison County from primary sources,” said Daiber. “I appreciate her work and that of all the participants who enrolled in the 2017 SIUE graduate history course who are implementing the project in their classrooms.”

The 2018 course is entitled “Community Engaged Digital History” and is being offered to area teachers from July 2-August 4. To enroll, visit

“This course will give Madison County teachers the opportunity to explore topics of local interest and importance,” Stacy said. “Dr. Manuel and I will teach the techniques used in public history, oral history and digital archiving and offer ways in which these methods can be used in lesson plans that uphold the Illinois social science standards.”

Educators already enrolled teach at Bethalto’s Civic Memorial High School, Liberty and Lincoln Middle Schools in Edwardsville, Edwardsville High School, Alton Middle School and Collinsville High School.

In line with SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook’s emphasis on high impact community engagement practices, bringing Madison Historical into area classrooms is a win-win-win. Primary benefits include:

  • Giving high school students the opportunity to explore the ways in which their parents and grandparents lived the history of Madison County
  • Providing Madison Historical’s research assistants, all of whom are graduate students in history, the opportunity to practice their skills at teaching history, while at the same time seeing their research on Madison Historical put to work in a high school history classroom
  • Inspiring area teachers to incorporate local history into their U.S. history courses, as well as a set of projects they can use to introduce their students to historical methods

For more information on Madison Historical, visit

Central to SIUE’s exceptional and comprehensive education, the College of Arts and Sciences has 20 departments and 85 areas of study. More than 300 full-time faculty/instructors deliver classes to more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty help students explore diverse ideas and experiences, while learning to think and live as fulfilled, productive members of the global community. Study abroad, service-learning, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities better prepare SIUE students not only to succeed in our region's workplaces, but also to become valuable leaders who make important contributions to our communities.

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