It’s not a mandate, but Iowa schools have been encouraged for the past few years to incorporate Iowa history in every grade, replacing the traditional practice of one unit of Iowa history in fifth or sixth grade.
“So that it’s not a one-and-done experience,” says Leo Landis, curator of the State Historical Museum and a member of the Iowa History Council that recommended the change in 2016.
Landis says for young kids, Iowa history can become part of learning about spaces and places.
“They start understanding some of the basics of geography and directions and things and maybe introducing them to our borders and our big rivers,” Landis says. “It’s up to individual teachers who to incorporate those stories.”
Suzan Turner is an instructional coach in the Nashua Plainfield district. She works with teachers to infuse Iowa history into their lessons and encourage students to do things like search through local newspapers to gain insight.
“How did that event uniquely impact our community and how did the people of our community and our state uniquely impact that event?” she says are questions that help students explore. “…That gives history a lot more meaning to kids when they can think about it through the eyes of their ancestors or their community. It makes it come to life much more than just talking about an abstract event that happened years and year ago.”
Turner also works with students in the school’s talented and gifted program. One of her students won a 2021 National History Day award.
Landis, the state museum curator, says he took one unit of Iowa history as a fifth grader. Over the past few years, Landis and others in the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs have been developing Iowa history curriculum for younger kids.
“Teachers looking for things at early learning levels can come to us and find some of that,” Landis says.
Kids learning about Iowa history may know that Tuesday is statehood day. December 28, 1846 is the date Iowa became a state. That means this December 28th is Iowa’s 175th anniversary.