Durham Discovered

Durham Academy upperclassmen delve into a history of Durham, doing the work of real historians. 

The fall semester elective, The History of Durham, has an intimate class size of seven students. Each student in the class will work to write a research paper. The course is designed and led by Dr. Rob Policelli. “I was inspired by the strategic plan and this idea of, “How can the history department help to create a course that does more interdisciplinary learning and off-campus learning, and integrates Durham Academy more into the Durham community?” he says.

Though there is no set curriculum for this investigative course, students will explore different themes and facets of Durham history during the first quarter, and the writing process will begin in the second quarter. They are using resources from Wilson Library in UNC, as well as libraries at Duke and in the Durham County library system. 
The big questions for any history class— thinking about cause and effect, what has caused major changes and who are the winners and losers of those changes—are guiding our explorations of Durham history now,” Dr. Policelli says. “But maybe it’s a little more real for the kids because we can see a lot of the effects.” Durham Academy upperclassmen delve into a history of Durham, doing the work of real historians. The fall semester elective, The History of Durham, has an intimate class size of seven students.

Each student in the class will work to write a research paper. The course is designed and led by Dr. Rob Policelli. “I was inspired by the strategic plan and this idea of, “How can the history department help to create a course that does more interdisciplinary learning and off-campus learning, and integrates Durham Academy more into the Durham community?” he says.

durhamdiscovered.jpg

Though there is no set curriculum for this investigative course, students will explore different themes and facets of Durham history during the first quarter, and the writing process will begin in the second quarter. They are using resources from Wilson Library in UNC, as well as libraries at Duke and in the Durham County library system. 

wo weeks ago, the class took a trip to historic Stagville, the site of one of the largest plantations in the antebellum South. The plantation was located in north Durham and held more than 900 slaves. However, many Durham residents are oblivious to this piece of historical significance nearby. The theme for the class trip was how memory interacts with history, and in the bigger picture of the course, students are not only interested in the facts of history, but how events and institutions are remembered in the modern context. 

Dr. Policelli himself is not a Durham native. “I’m not an expert on Durham history,” he says, “but I’ve written a dissertation, so I have a sense of the challenges and rewards of a massive scholarly work.”

“[The History of Durham] is the kind of course I hope we have more of in the future in the sense that I’m not standing in front of the class and delivering information that [students] memorize.”