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The "City" in American Literature and Culture
1981 Volume I


In March 1981, seventy-five teachers from six departments of the New Haven Public Schools became Fellows of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute to prepare new curriculum materials for school courses. Established in 1978, the Institute is a joint program of Yale University and the New Haven Public Schools, designed to improve teaching and learning of the humanities and sciences in our community’s middle and high schools. The Institute has been recognized nationally as a model of university-school collaboration that “integrates curriculum development with intellectual renewal for teachers.” Our principal aim is to open the resources of Yale University to city school teachers and to make these resources available in the ways they believe will be most helpful.

In applying to the Institute, teachers stated their priorities for curriculum development, the topics on which they proposed to work and the relation of these topics to courses which would be offered in the coming year. Teachers had primary responsibility for identifying the subjects the Institute would treat. Six seminars were organized, corresponding to the principal themes of the Fellows’ proposals. The seminar entitled “The ‘City’ in American Literature and Culture” was led by Alan Trachtenberg, Chairman and Professor of American Studies, and Professor of English. Between March and August, Fellows participated in seminars, researched their topics, and attended a series of lectures by Yale faculty.

The curriculum units Fellows wrote are their own; they are presented in six volumes, one for each seminar. A list of all the volumes of units published between 1978 and 1981 appears on the next page. The units contain four elements: objectives, teaching strategies, sample lessons and classroom activities, and lists of resources for teachers and students. They are intended for use primarily by Institute Fellows and their colleagues who teach in New Haven. We hope they will also be of interest to teachers in other school systems.

The impact of the Teachers Institute on the curriculum of New Haven schools is cumulative and growing. We recently completed a survey of most New Haven teachers who might use the curriculum units teachers have developed in the Institute. Of the 142 units written between 1978 and 1980, almost all are currently being taught in school courses. The majority of these units are being used not only by the teachers who wrote them, but by other teachers as well. They are being taught in some 700 school classes attended by almost 30,000 students. Because there are 9,000 secondary students in New Haven, these figures mean that most students are studying Institute-developed materials in several courses; each fall students enter new courses and encounter new teachers using Institute curricula.

The 1981 Institute was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The materials presented here do not necessarily reflect the view of the Endowment or the Foundation.

James R. Vivian

New Haven

August, 1981

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