HM - Jan. 2015 - Gangopadhyay

Time Travelers

What if …
You Taught History with a Touch of Innovation?

by Paula Gangopadhyay
Chief Learning Officer
The Henry Ford

History is best learned from stories — stories that only touch our hearts and make us reflect backwards, but that inspire us to take action in the present and change the world for the better in the future. I call it applied history.

What if history became a dynamic interdisciplinary platform for developing innovative mindsets among your students? What if exploration of digitized artifacts — interviews with present-day innovators juxtaposed with insights on legendary innovators and DBQs set around iconic artifacts like the Apple-1 — gave your students the power to transcend geography and time and develop skills like creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking? What if history were taught through fun "learning by doing" storybooks on legendary innovators that support the Common Core State Standards and seamlessly improve literacy skills in our struggling readers? What if STEM became integrated with history and humanities as a critical contextual hook? What if dynamic historical content and contemporary stories of everyday innovators were delivered through a fun and educational national TV show, every week of the school year, to get your students totally geeked about creating their own history?

If any or all of the above questions intrigue you, you might want to explore the plethora of innovative digital teaching and learning resources The Henry Ford has recently created. These resources can change how history is taught and applied in the real world.

If you are a teacher whose school is near our Dearborn, Michigan, location, we invite you to join over 200,000 school audiences who visit us annually and leave inspired. If you are unable to bring your class to our museums because of geographical or funding challenges, let us bring a piece of history and innovation to your classroom from our collection of 26 million artifacts that tell the story of the grit, innovation and ingenuity of the American people.

So where exactly is The Henry Ford's niche for what is being taught in the American classrooms?

We have thoughtfully categorized our educational offerings around these six areas of our expertise and collections:
1. American Innovation
2. America's Industrial Revolution
3. American Democracy and Civil Rights
4. STEM in America
5. American Family and Community Life
6. Transportation in America

Ready-to-Use Digital Curricula
Comprehensive, high-quality and FREE curricula, complete with unduplicated content, embedded digital assets, rich teacher guides and student activity sheets, are available on most of these topics. Created by our qualified education staff as well as teacher fellows and partners, these curricula are aligned to state and national standards in Social Studies, English Language Arts, Education Technology, 21st-Century Skills, STEM, as well as to the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation of Science Standards. There is something for all grade levels — elementary, middle and high. Browse and download any of these resources that meet your classroom needs.
Teaching Innovation

Can you teach innovation? We think you can. You now have free access to a video library of more than 800 video interviews from today’s prolific innovators like Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Dean Kamen, Elon Musk as well as insights on legendary innovators from The Henry Ford’s curators. Bring these thought-leaders to your classroom to start engaging discussions on what it takes to be an innovator and create history. Find more from

If you are excited about teaching innovation, explore our signature digital education module called Innovation 101, a five-part unit plan that utilizes stories of past innovators and juxtaposes them with stories of present-day innovators at Through reflection, dialogue, small- and large-group activities and listening to oral history interviews of innovators and curators, students learn about traits and processes used by innovators, past and present. Students then can chart a road map of how to be innovative in everyday life. 

For students in grades K-5 we have designed accompanying resources called Be an Innovator … Like Henry Ford and Be an Innovator … Like Rosa Parks. These activity-rich storybooks use visual-thinking strategies, vocabulary building, comprehension and writing to teach about history and innovation. Students have an opportunity to learn about artifacts, dates, people and places.

If you are interested, you can join The Henry Ford's Innovation Learning Accelerator (ILA), which is our newest national commitment to Igniting a Learning Revolution through Innovation. Our goal is to empower 5,000 teachers in the next five years to teach innovation to more than 125,000 students. Watch this video to see what teachers and students are saying.

Find out more about how to get involved, receive on-site or online professional development and an Innovation Teaching kit. By joining ILA, you will become part of a community of practitioners, a national network of Teacher Innovators. Learn more at:

Innovation Nation
Did you know that we are now airing a 30-minute educational TV show, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, on CBS every Saturday morning through fall 2015? Hosted by CBS correspondent Mo Rocca, history is made fun, relevant and motivational for students of all ages. Tune in to your local CBS station, and check out the timing. Find more by viewing few of the past episodes at, You have to see it, to believe it.

Digitized Artifacts from the Archive of American Innovation
If you are a teacher who likes to use Documents Based Questions (DBQs), explore our digitized collection at We have over 35,000 artifacts digitized for you. You can either access an Expert Set, curated by our curators, or create your own User Set with selected artifacts that you can use and refresh for your teaching or student project needs.
Creative Writing on Innovation

How about getting your students to research the life of Thomas Edison and then write their own creative stories? Find out more about Building Stories, a creative writing contest for students at:

The March 15, 2015, deadline is fast approaching. Last year, we received more than 300 entries and recognized seven winners. We flew in one of the winners, a homeschooler, and his mother from California for the award ceremony and a two-day visit to The Henry Ford. It proved to be a life-changing experience for him. What if one of your students won one of the prizes this school year?

Now it’s your turn…
I hope I have shared some unique and valuable ideas and resources with which you can refresh your teaching of history with a touch of innovation. Please feel free to email me at if you find any of these resources helpful in your teaching. I look forward to hearing from you on how we can work together to take our teaching and learning of history to the next level of excellence.