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Happy Birthday, Alabama!

Yup, that’s right. Beginning now and extending into the next few years, Alabama educators are celebrating monumental birthdays. And the best part? They’re bringing it right into the classroom. (Ok, maybe minus the cake).

The upcoming bicentennial celebrations include:

2017 = Alabama’s territorial bicentennial

2018 = Morgan County’s bicentennial

2019 = Alabama’s statehood bicentennial

2021 = Decatur’s bicentennial

In honor of these monumental birthdays, Alabama is hosting Bicentennial Summer Institutes which provide elementary teachers with Alabama history-focused professional development. Led by twelve Master Teachers from across Alabama, the 3.5-day Summer Institutes will train 300 teachers each summer from 2017 to 2019.

Decatur is proud to claim one of those twelve statewide Master Teachers as our very own Britt Lovelace.

Britt Lovelace led the 2017 Institute workshop right here in Decatur, and Alabama educators traveled for miles to fall in love with the historical buildings, stories, people, and cultures in Decatur.

“I want my kids to learn history in an out-of-the-box way.” Brittney Canady teaches at Hanceville Elementary School, and traveled to Decatur for the workshop. “I wanted an educational experience to keep me inspired,” she says.

The inspiring workshop focused on social studies, but also mixed in English language arts, math, science, and art.

John Kvach, a Southern History professor at UAH and the content expert for AL 200, gave several lectures on moving past history textbooks in the classroom. In emphasizing the importance of unlikely primary sources, he used songs like Yankee Doodle Dandy, the entire genre of jazz, the shape of bricks on the wall, and old WWI propaganda posters to demonstrate how history tells its own story every day. And these are sources that can plug right into the classroom!

“The most common review I hear from teachers is that they’ve never been to a PD where they’ve been so inspired for lessons while learning so much content at the same time,” Lovelace says.

Judge David Breland led a walking tour of Decatur to specifically highlight the Industrial and architectural history that is rich in North Alabama.

Lynn Him from Madison County Schools says, “My favorite part was visiting Constitution Village even though it was 900 degrees outside. The people in costume there made the era come to life, and it seemed like their knowledge was inexhaustible.”

During the workshop, teachers visited the Old State Bank, the Decatur Archives, Constitution Village, Carnegie Library, Burritt on the Mountain, the newly-renovated Decatur Train Depot, and even historic homes in downtown Decatur.

And it worked. Teachers left the workshop each day inspired and brimming with ideas to make history memorable in their classrooms.

Originally from the Decatur area, Cassandra Cook now teaches at a private school in Huntsville. “After all I’ve learned this week, I can’t wait to bring my kids to Decatur on field trips,” she says. “I’m going to love showing them my old stomping grounds.”

And that’s what the birthday party is all about. We’ve been stomping around this place called Alabama for 200 years now, and it’s important to let the next generation know how old this red clay really is.