The David Mathews Center for Civic Life concluded its Alabama Bicentennial Commission supported teacher workshop series on October 1, 2019, with “In Your Backyard: Civic Education Through Historical Perspective Taking.”

This workshop, which was a culminating summit of the place-based, deliberative learning workshops the DMC hosted in 2018, invited historians, educators, and municipal leaders from across the state into a conversation on connecting the classroom and community.

The first panel, “Action Civics Through School & Community Partnerships” was moderated by Cristin Brawner, Executive Director of the DMC and featured Dr. Hollie Cost, Mayor of Montevallo, and Dr. Wesley Hester, Principal of Thompson High School. Dr. Cost and Dr. Hester have both developed hands-on civic learning opportunities for local students which invite them to create, direct, and even help govern the communities they live in.

Dr. Cost advises the Montevallo Junior City Council, a governing body of youth that informs and votes on decisions alongside the Montevallo City Council. Cost was accompanied by panelists Abigail Heuton, who serves as Junior Mayor, and Olivia Gilbert, who is also a member of the MJCC.

Dr. Hester spoke of the success and implementation of Thompson High School’s THS 300 leadership project. The program brings together a diverse group of students from all grade-levels to identify school and community issues and plan and execute projects to address them. Hester was accompanied by THS 300 participants Sunni Graber, Gracelyn Noss, and Chloe Sims. Students representing both the MJCC and THS 300 spoke to the programs’ ability to engage and cultivate civic skills in students who may not otherwise be identified or selected for leadership programs or student government positions.

The second panel of the day “Illuminating Local History in Alabama Classrooms: The Creek War” was moderated by Dr. Ruth Truss, Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Montevallo. Panelists included Mike Bunn, Director of Blakeley State Park; Kerry Dunaway, Director of the Clarke County Historical Museum; and Dr. Alex Colvin, Public Program Curator at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Each panelist has had a role in bringing new resources for teaching the Creek War, as well as resources for many other state historical events, to Alabama classrooms. Panelists spoke to how they make history engaging for Alabama youth, and how to spark curiosity about history through place-based curriculum. Following the panel, Dr. Colvin gave an engaging presentation on Creek culture to prepare participants for the “Creek War of 1813-1814” deliberative discussion to follow.

The afternoon was focused largely on deliberation in the classroom, from walking teachers through a deliberation using the Creek War issue guide, to moderator training, and finally, an overview on how to name and frame to create issue guides for use in the classroom or community.

The DMC is grateful for all of those, including the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, attendees, and panelists panelists, who helped make the “In Your Backyard” workshop a success. If you are interested in bringing a DMC hosted professional development workshop or student program to your school, contact Gabrielle Lamplugh, Education Director, at