Humanities in Class Online Courses

NHC Online Courses

The National Humanities Center collaborates with partners, scholars, and subject matter experts to provide virtual courses that allow educators to explore a relevant topic over five to six weeks. Participants actively engage with course materials and colleagues, expand their own knowledge, skills, and dispositions, and develop customized educational resources.

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Abigail & John Adams: Exploring Early U.S. History Through the Life of an American Power Couple

media literacyImages: (1) Abigail Adams, 1800/1815, painted by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828), National Gallery of Art; (2) Book cover of Abigail & John written by David Bruce Smith, illustrated by Clarice Smith; (3) John Adams, 1800/1815, painted by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828), National Gallery of Art

In 1776, Abigail Adams urged her husband John to “remember the ladies” by offering them legal protection, rather than leaving their fate in the hands of their husbands. This course follows Abigail Adams’s directive by exploring the lives of women and men during the late colonial period in British North America, the American Revolution, the early years of nation formation in the United States, and John Adams’s presidency. Abigail and John’s lived experiences and their involvement in public service provide a lens for examining the social and political changes that gripped the land now known as the United States during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This course builds on the book Abigail & John by David Bruce Smith (with illustrations by Clarice Smith) and is intended for elementary and middle school instructors.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Grateful American Foundation.
Fall 2021: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Becoming Visually Literate in the Humanities Classroom

modern paintingShimomura Crossing the Delaware by Roger Shimomura (2010), National Portrait Gallery

We live in a visually saturated world in which citizens are asked to read photographs, maps, and other visual materials in order to understand the world around them. This visual literacy has a significant impact on students’ content area learning. Reading comprehension demands comprehension of the written text, but also depends heavily on the comprehension and integration of the graphical content that is almost invariably included in those texts. This course addresses a variety of U.S. history topics commonly taught in elementary, middle, and high schools as models/examples to begin each session. Participants will explore the Library of Congress collections, with particular attention to the Primary Source sets, themed resources, and the connected collections using exemplary visual materials in their teaching contexts.
Lead Scholar: Kristy Brugar, University of Oklahoma
Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Critical Media Literacy: Decoding Disinformation and Myths in the News

media literacy

In this updated six-week online course, educators will critically examine the ever-changing role of print, broadcast, and digital media through a humanities lens. Participants will investigate how mass media has evolved, how its messages shape our citizenry, and how the issue of disinformation can be brought to life in a classroom setting. By using investigation, analysis, discussion, and reflection, participants will develop a classroom resource customized to their individual educational environments.
Fall 2021: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Empowering Maptivists: Using Maps & Data to Examine Social Issues in the Humanities Classroom

city mapResidential security map of Holyoke and part of the city of Chicopee, Mass from the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center’s “Mapping Inequality” collection

Maps are instruments of power and can affect our understanding of issues and data depending on who is telling the story. It is our job as map consumers and educators to think critically about what maps are showing us (and what they aren’t). In Empowering Maptivists, course participants will explore the unique power of maps to make sense of the world around us. The course will provide clear pathways for helping students explore issues in their own communities and use spatial understanding to advocate for change.

This course has been designed with the generous support of the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library.

Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

From the Sixties to Now: Using Music to Explore Issues of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary American History

record albumsFlyer for Punk Percussion Protest (July 25, 1992)

What do Gil Scott-Heron, Bikini Kill, and Beyoncé all have in common? Their music offers a unique perspective on social movements and cultural revolutions during the second half of the twentieth century. The sounds they created—jazz, salsa, rock and roll, soul, hip hop—are a gateway into U.S. culture that represents multiple stakeholders and excites students in the process. This course will use music from the 1960s and to the near-present to explore issues of race, gender, and sexuality in twentieth-century America. “From The Sixties to Now” will feature content from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s collaboration with the CNN Soundtracks series.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation.
Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Let’s Talk: Using the Humanities to Promote Civil Discourse in the Classroom

School of AthensThe School of Athens (fresco 1511) by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino

“Let’s Talk” provides disciplinary approaches to promoting civil discourse in the pre-collegiate classroom. Through this professional development course, teachers gain an understanding of the specific ways in which the humanities can open the conversation around civility and comity. The training draws from examples in history, philosophy, art history, literature, and politics. Teacher participants can create curricular connections and classroom activities that follow the same model.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the State of California.
Fall Session: September 13–October 29, 2021
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Medieval Africa and Africans

map of Mansa MusaDetail from a modern reproduction of the map of West Africa in The Catalan Atlas (1375)

Given the wide popularity of Eurocentric medieval fantasies, it has never been more important that we teach our students about the reality of the Middle Ages rather than the fictionalized fantasies with which they are accustomed. In order to examine Medieval Studies and expand the “Global Middle Ages” beyond the traditional boundaries of Western Europe, this course will concentrate on premodern Africa. While often overlooked, the civilizations that spanned the vast African continent produced great achievements, in conditions of relative parity with their European contemporaries, before the oceanic dominance of a few Western powers. This course will contextualize Medieval Africa in terms of its contemporary relationships with the medieval globe as well as its modern impact.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Medieval Academy of America in addition to the support of Boston University African Studies Center.
Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

“My Piece of the American Pie”: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary American Music

music and megaphone

This course celebrates the diversity of American music through explorations of subjects like Afrofuturism, modern protest music from the Black Lives Matter movement and the immigration crisis, as well as music from the perspective of women and the Queer community. Course participants will explore issues of race, gender, and sexuality in twentieth- and twenty-first-century America as they also learn practical ways to bring discussions of music into their classrooms by analyzing textual, sonic, and visual content. “My Piece of the American Pie” will feature videos from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s collaboration with the CNN Soundtracks series.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation.
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Understanding the Modern Middle East

women protestersFemale protesters marching in Egypt during the Arab Spring.

Far too often, the Middle East appears as doubly alien: out of place and out of time. A century of popular culture caricatures, at least two centuries of Orientalist representations, and decades of American military interventions, have all fed into the notion of the Middle East as a turmoil-laden, sectarian, and tribal premodern region. In this course, we will go beyond these stereotypes to look at the historical forces that shaped the region across the twentieth century to understand the complexities of its peoples and societies.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, Duke–UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.
Lead Scholar: Akram Khater, North Carolina State University (NHC Fellow, 2006–07)
Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Water Rights and Land Access: Native American History Today

Standing Rock protest People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016.

This course will address clear curricular gaps in Native American history with a focus on foodways and the loss of access to traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering areas; the historical loss of land and water rights through treaties and conflicts; and the loss of family lands for Native populations. Digital materials from the Library of Congress online collection will be featured prominently in each module with an emphasis on material culture and visual arts.
Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Lead Scholar: Joshua Reid, University of Washington
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

The Where of Why: GIS in the Humanities Classroom

cholera mapEarly use of spatial analysis by Dr. John Snow tracking London cholera cases in 1854.

Often, when teaching about historical events, there is an over-emphasis on chronology without strong enough consideration given to geography. The use of geospatial technologies allows interactions of place, space, time, and scale to be more obvious, allowing students to develop the ability to answer not only “where?” but “why there?” “GIS in the Humanities Classroom” will introduce participants to the transformative power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Over five weeks, the course will detail approaches to embedding geospatial technology in existing classroom instruction, as well as methods for using geography to enrich humanities narratives. By focusing on inquiry-based instruction, the course will provide insights into the ways that GIS tools contribute to a deeper understanding of humanities subjects.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the Virginia Geographic Alliance.
Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Women of the Americas: Early Encounters and Entangled Histories

Women & the American StoryImage resources included in the New-York Historical Society’s Women & the American Story curriculum website: (1) Lienzo de Tlaxcala, Hernán Cortés and La Malinche meet Moctezuma II in Tenochtitlan, November 8, 1519. Facsimile (c. 1890) of Lienzo de Tlaxcala. Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, the University of California, Berkeley. (2) “Artist’s rendering of Dorothy Angola.” Slavery in New York Curriculum Guide (New York: New-York Historical Society, 2005). (3) Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, ca. 1662. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889. (4) Baroness Anne-Marguerite-Henriette Hyde de Neuville, Oneida Family, 1807. New-York Historical Society.

The history of European discovery, contact, and early settlement in the Americas is traditionally represented as a chain of great men. Students and the wider public are often familiar with the lives of few women beyond Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, and now the Schuyler sisters. This course disrupts narratives that focus exclusively on the history of men by exploring the lives of European, Indigenous, and African-descended women during the sixteenth through early eighteenth centuries. Women from a variety of backgrounds were integral to the development of Spanish, Dutch, English, and French colonial societies in North America. This course traces the lives of Indigenous interpreters, enslaved laborers, and women who traversed the Atlantic and carved a place for themselves in colonial legal, social, and economic systems. The history of the Americas cannot be understood without examining the experiences of these women.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the New-York Historical Society.
Fall 2021, Session 2: November 8–December 17
Spring 2022, Session 1: January 24–March 4
Spring 2022, Session 2: March 21–May 6
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Cut the Bull! How the Humanities Can Help Develop Critical Media Literacy

digital library

In this five-week online course, educators will critically examine the ever-changing role of print, broadcast and digital media through a humanities lens. Participants will investigate how the media have evolved, how their messages shape our citizenry, and how they can be brought to life in a classroom setting. By using investigation, analysis, discussion, and reflection, participants will develop a classroom resource customized to their individual educational environments. The course content was inspired by and incorporates resources from University of Washington professors Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West.
This course has been designed with the generous support of the North Carolina Humanities Council.
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

The Oyster and the City: Environmental History in Turn-of-the-Century America

oyster“Young Oyster Shucker Standing on Mound of Shells in Biloxi, Mississippi,” by Lewis Hine (1911)

Food is a powerful way to explore environmental history. Food is always about stories: stories of family recipes and traditions; stories of hardship and survival; stories about blending traditions and creating new ones. And because food is produced in nature, it connects cultural stories to our dependence on the larger, nonhuman world. That is the essence of environmental history: locating humanity in the natural world. This course will use Library of Congress images as evidence, not merely as illustrations. Specifically, we will identify sources from the photographic and written record created by the National Child Labor Committee Collection. Through Lewis Hine’s photographs of child laborers at work in canneries and oyster packinghouses, and in his written notes compiled in 30 reports held by the Library of Congress, we will emphasize links between city and country, between child labor and the nation’s cheapest and most abundant protein: oysters.
Lead Scholar: Matthew Booker, North Carolina State University (Fellow, 2016–17)
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

Suckers & Swindlers in American History

mail fraudExample of mail fraud detected and flagged by U.S. Postal Service in 1906.

Financial scams, fraudulent activities, and Ponzi schemes have been a part of American culture since the 19th century. Using archival materials and source documents, participants will learn how economic, political, and cultural systems have evolved in response to these trends. This six-week course is framed around the recent publication Fraud: An American History From Barnum to Madoff (2017) by Edward Balleisen. Participants will develop a classroom resource to use in their individual educational environments.
Lead Scholar: Edward Balleisen, Duke University (Fellow, 2009–10)
Professional Development Hours: 35
Course Details

About Our Instructors

Each course is developed with an established scholar in the field, who helps develop activities and provides resources for group discussions and individual research. Our goal is to facilitate a learning experience that will result in classroom-ready instructional materials. Our instructor pool is comprised of experienced, talented educators and scholars in humanities education.

Contact

For more information, email Education Programs Manager Mike Williams.