Arkansas Civil War ResourceLITTLE ROCK ­– Arkansas teachers “toured” Friday [July 15, 2011] a new interactive tool that allows them to exchange ideas, enhance their lesson plans and download classroom materials about Arkansas history.

About 50 educators experienced the new Arkansas History Hub (http://www.ARHistoryHub.com) during the morning technology session at the Department of Arkansas Heritage Teacher Workshop held at Historic Arkansas Museum in downtown Little Rock.

The Arkansas History Hub assembles resources from history institutions across the state into a centralized, easy-to-use website. The Hub features searchable databases of lesson plans, field trip destinations, classroom presentation materials and professional development opportunities. Hub users can also join discussions and share materials.

“Our vision for the Arkansas History Hub is that it will be a comprehensive educational tool for educators to access a variety of resources and materials on Arkansas history,” said Cathie Matthews, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage (DAH). “Consequently, teachers have a support network to present quality Arkansas history lessons in their classrooms.”

The Hub has been endorsed by the Arkansas Legislative Task Force on the Assessment and Improvement of Arkansas History Education in Public Schools, which was established in 2009 to identify ways to improve Arkansas history education in the state’s public schools.

The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies is also a partner in the Hub project. “There are many people in institutions and organizations around the state working to improve Arkansas history education, but none more important than classroom teachers,” said David Stricklin, head of the Butler Center. “Being able to share their knowledge and experiences with each other through the Hub will make it a wonderfully valuable tool for these educators and other history professionals.”

The Butler Center, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System, was created in 1997 to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of Arkansas history, literature, art and culture.

Prominent Arkansas historian Tom DeBlack, a history professor at Arkansas Tech University at Russellville, attended this morning’s session. “This is the most exciting development in Arkansas history since the launching of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas,” DeBlack said.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture (http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/) collects and disseminates information about all aspects of the state’s history and culture.

Arkansas History Hub designer Josh Jenkins, a digital media specialist with DAH, guided teachers through the Hub at the workshop. “This tool can help improve the efficiency of exchange between you and others,” Jenkins said to those in attendance. “We want to aid your efforts to teach quality Arkansas history lessons so that your students can have the best possible educational experience in and out of the classroom.”

The Department of Arkansas Heritage and its agencies seek to recognize the state’s heritage and to enhance Arkansas’s quality of life through the discovery, preservation and presentation of the state’s cultural, natural and historic resources. DAH agencies include the Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Delta Cultural Center, Historic Arkansas Museum, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and Old State House Museum.