Berks faculty awarded Library of Congress grant

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Credit: Penn State

Jessica Schocker and Justin De Senso were recently awarded a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) grant. The grant, "Teaching Critical Race Theory with Primary Sources," will fund Schocker and De Senso’s co-teaching of SOC 205 (Critical Race Theory in the Humanities and Social Sciences) and support initiatives stemming from the class for Penn State Berks students and pre-K through 12 educators.

Penn State Berks students enrolled in SOC 205, an interdomain general education class, will learn how to find and analyze primary sources from the library to support their learning and understanding of race relations (past and present) in America. A group of students enrolled in the course will be invited to present their work at a national conference. Further, the grant supports teaching pre-K through 12 educators — in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. — how to design anti-racist curricula and teach about race and racism more effectively using the library’s collections. Schocker and De Senso will also conduct research on the use of primary sources in racial literacy instruction. The grant is for $13,103, and runs from July 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021.

For the last three years, De Senso, assistant teaching professor of English and African American studies, and Schocker, associate professor of social studies education and women's studies, have co-taught SOC 205N at Penn State Berks, a course they designed to help meet the University’s new integrative studies general education requirements.

Schocker explains that they plan to reach out to teachers in the Reading School District, some of whom earned their degree in elementary and early childhood education at Penn State Berks.

“This grant will allow us to extend the impact of this course beyond Penn State,” explained Schocker. “Many classroom teachers are eager for resources, education and space to discuss teaching about race.”

“This is fortunate timing,” shared De Senso. “2020 continues to remind us, if nothing else, that racial literacy matters at all levels of education.” 

At the end of the fall semester, they plan to present their work along with their students at the National Council for the Social Studies in December 2021.

About the program
The Library of Congress awards grants to educational organizations, including universities, historical societies, foundations, companies, and school districts that assist in the design and delivery of the TPS program. These grantees, who comprise the TPS consortium, deliver TPS professional development and academic courses, design curriculum and apps/online interactives using primary sources from the library’s collections, and or conduct research on the classroom use of primary sources.