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Teaching and Learning Iowa History: Iowans and the Civil Rights Movement is a Course

Teaching and Learning Iowa History: Iowans and the Civil Rights Movement

Ended Aug 31, 2015

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Full course description

Starts July 1, 2015

As a unique collaboration of units across Iowa State University and the state of Iowa, “Teaching and Learning Iowa History” is a much-needed response to the lack of resources related to Iowa state history education. Despite statewide interest in Iowa history as documented by the Department of Cultural Affairs, there are few opportunities to learn about it—especially history related to social justice and diversity. In addition, the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) has surveyed teachers across the state and found that there are currently very few social studies education professional development opportunities for Iowa teachers.

“Teaching and Learning Iowa History” helps to fill that void by providing an innovative approach to connecting the general public, university students, and pre- and in-service teachers interested in learning more about Iowa history. This summer, our focus is on Iowans and the Civil Rights Movement in order to understand the roots of racism in the state and struggles for racial justice through the 19th and 20th centuries.


This experimental course was designed with the following four objectives in mind:

  • To increase people’s knowledge about themes in Iowa history related to racism and struggles for racial justice;
  • To engage people in analyzing different strategies for struggling against systemic racism;
  • To prepare teachers in the state to engage in social studies best practices to teach K-12 students about local history related to racism and struggles for racial justice; and
  • To connect people with museums and other statewide resources to strengthen a professional development network.


There will be four online content modules related to Civil Rights Movement history and Iowa. Participants will read articles and chapters related to the content, listen to podcast interviews with local experts and scholars, examine primary sources, and watch video documentaries before posting their questions and ideas in different discussion forums. These content modules are available online and can be completed asynchronously. Multiple-choice exams and other online tasks will assess students’ knowledge of this content. This content will be available from July 1-31.

The specific content in this course includes exploring primary and secondary sources to answer the following questions:
1) What are the roots of racism in Iowa? How was it sustained?
2) What strategies did people use to fight for racial justice, and which were most successful in bringing about greater equality in Iowa?
3) How were Iowans involved in the national Civil Rights movement?
4) How are Iowans fighting for racial justice and against racism and racial segregation today?

NOTE: If you are taking this class for licensure renewal or course credit, you must both enroll in Canvas and register through Iowa State. Please contact us at for registration information.


Katy Swalwell, Ph.D


Dr. Katy Swalwell joined the School of Education faculty at Iowa State University as an Assistant Professor of Education in 2014, after serving on the faculty of George Mason University and the University of Maryland, College Park. Born and raised in Iowa, she graduated from the University of Northern Iowa's teacher education program in 2002. For several years, Dr. Swalwell taught at a rural public high school in Minnesota and worked at a New England boarding school in the summers. In 2011, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction.

Her research focuses on social studies education, social justice education, and the intersection of policy and classroom practice with a particular emphasis on social class—from documenting teacher activism in the face of anti-union reforms to understanding the reproduction of privilege in elite schools. Her work has appeared in Rethinking Schools, Teaching Tolerance, Democratic Education, Education Policy, and several edited volumes. Her award-winning book, Educating Activist Allies, was published by Routledge in 2013.

As a professor, Dr. Swalwell has worked extensively with undergraduate and graduate students as well as practicing teachers. She is a Zinn Education Project Research Fellow, co-founded the Critical Resources for Elementary Social Studies Teachers group, and serves on the board of the Social Studies Special Interest Group and the Critical Educators for Social Justice within the American Educational Research Association.