Programs > K-12 Programs

Moll Pitcher

Defining Freedom

July 22, 29, 30, 2009 at the American Antiquarian Society (Wocester)

July 23, 28, 2009 at the Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston)

9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day

Defining Freedom is a collaborative professional development project presented by the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), and the Worcester Public Schools (WPS) sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Defining Freedom examines how Americans conceived and promoted both individual and communal liberties and responsibilities from 1763 through 1863. The project seeks to create a series of professional development experiences in which participating teachers will examine the imperial crisis, the American Revolution, the Early Republic, the antebellum period, and the Civil War. These historic events will be placed in relation to the broad themes of the evolution of the concepts of personal freedom, individual responsibility and respect for human dignity, and the growth and impact of centralized state power. During these time periods, popular thinking about personal freedom, individual responsibility, and respect for human dignity evolved to drastically expand the distribution of political and social power among the people, even as the power and scope of state and federal governments increased. Additionally, various minorities sought to gain the full rights and privileges of American citizenship only to be thwarted in their attempts.

Moll Pitcher Teachers participating in this institute will interact with leading historians and scholars and explore the vast collections of primary source documents and images available through the collections of the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society in preparation for developing and piloting instructional units. These units will employ technology to help students develop and teachers assess 21st century skills. The project will encourage teachers to explore each of these institutions. artifacts through onsite workshops, presentations, and individual research conducted by teachers at their own pace. Additionally, teachers will be encouraged to use various online resources, including those developed by AAS and MHS. Defining Freedom will employ various digital and printed resources to help students analyze and evaluate information, think critically, develop coherent and intellectually rich theses, employ evidence to support arguments, and fashion compelling written, oral, and multimedia presentations. Participants will work closely with the AAS and MHS staff to brainstorm pedagogical ideas with historians, scholars, and master teachers. Each day will be organized around a framing question for investigation and interpretation which the scholars will examine as they provide historical context, which the instructional faculty will introduce through the types of evidence that our institutions can provide, and—most significantly—which the teachers (and ultimately their students) will explore through a laboratory-style engagement with the primary sources.

An important component of Defining Freedom will be to familiarize teachers with the online resources available and to encourage the development of media literacy among their students. Teachers will not only explore the materials available on the AAS sponsored website Teach U.S. History ( and those developed by the MHS including The Coming of the American Revolution (; they will also will also play a role in making suggestions for adding materials to both websites. Teacher's curriculum units and assessment strategies may also be added and/or linked to these sites so that additional teachers in other districts can access them as well.


Download a schedule.

Download the introduction to AAS Online Catalogs and Resources as a pdf.

Download the homework assignment for Wednesday morning's class.

All of the institutes are offered at no charge to Massachusetts educators. Current public school educators, especially those who are employed in school districts that have been identified as "high needs districts," educators who need to become highly qualified in the subject areas that they teach, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers of English language learners will be given first priority for registration. For more information, please see the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website.

Participants can earn PDPs or graduate credits for participating in this content institute. Three graduate credits in history will be available through Worcester State College. Worcester State is offering these credits for the much-reduced cost of $125 per credit, for a total cost of $375. More information will be available upon registration.

To register please contact:
Amy Sopcak-Joseph, Education Coordinator, American Antiquarian Society
E-mail: asopcak[at], direct phone: 508-471-2129.