History Channel Wields an Education Stick


There's a new budget item on The History Channel's ledger this year, and for the next three to come: $250,000 for New York City educational activity.

Under a four-year arrangement with the city's Department of Education, announced last week, History will support several ongoing programs, including elementary- and secondary-school teacher training on history subjects, grants to teachers and donations to video libraries.

History also will create at least one public-service message for the department per year, for ample play on the network and its A&E Television Networks siblings — History Channel International, The Biography Channel and A&E Network.

Separately, History will conspire with members of New York's Tweed Academy on curriculum for a "NYC History" project, targeted to debut this September.

All this action dovetails with History's premiere of TR: An American Lion, a documentary on the native New Yorker who became the country's 26th president. [See review, page 18.]

To mark both circumstances, network officials on Jan. 14 ran a Theodore Roosevelt panel discussion from the American Museum of Natural History on their Web site (www.historychannel/classroom.com). Roosevelt's great-grandson Mark Ames and actor Richard Dreyfuss, who voices T.R. in the documentary, were among the guests.

No stranger to educational support through its nationwide Save Our History
campaign and other work, History looked to develop a closer connection with New York City educators after TR
was completed.

"One thing led to another over a way to honor Roosevelt," said Dan Davids, History's executive vice president and general manager.

"The whole package works together nicely, but to single out one component, it's the teacher training. You get the opportunity to share programming and have both teachers and students derive the most from them," he said.

About 25 middle- and high-school teachers will take part in the training sessions every three months, led by Dr. Libby O'Connell, History's historian-in-residence. Each year, three teachers will receive $1,000 grants for special achievement.

Grant recipients will use the money for classroom materials, ongoing professional development or conference attendance. Another $3,000 in scholarships will be split equally among three students selected by city educators for their pursuit of history.

History also is bringing some of its shows, including American Lion, to 300 public schools — five titles this year and three per year through 2006, supplemented by study guides and online reference material.