Coming to the Heartland Educator Workshop

A pixelated rending of the state of Kansas.

About the Workshop

Saturday, September 25, 2021 – 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. (Virtual, Zoom)

Register Here

All attendees will receive a free copy of The Harvest by Tomás Rivera. For teachers wanting to incorporate The Harvest into classroom curriculum, classroom sets will also be available to teachers free of charge.

CLACS and KASC are excited to offer a grant-supported educator workshop, which is coordinated in partnership with the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities and the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas. The virtual weekend educator workshop engages teachers in matters of migration to Kansas as well as the history of immigration from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The workshop consists of several sessions led by KU faculty and staff who will share content and practical knowledge with participants, including training in the use of technologies and digital humanities resources. Workshop facilitators will help teachers to integrate the curriculum of tracing migration to Kansas utilizing a “personalized learning” instructional design approach. Content will center on historical waves of immigrations and the reasons that have brought people from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America to the Heartland; the stories are often fascinating in their uniquenesses and commonalities and often we find that it is educationally captivating to learn about the unexpected ways that history connects to the present, especially if the content resonates with a student’s background.

One example of an immigrant experience that we would like to highlight occurs during a wave of immigration to the state of Kansas in the construction of railroads, a unique facet of many Midwestern towns. The rapid growth of railroads post-Civil War and during the Reconstruction era was a response to an existing need to connect urban cities to rural towns. Growing settlements in the western mountains and Pacific coast caused the U.S. frontier to push across the Kansas plains. In order to meet the demands of future development, the railroads presented a necessary means to link these widespread regions with one another. Often a town's survival depended on whether or not it was serviced by a railroad line, which meant that great celebrations greeted railroad officials and construction crews as the tracks reached more and more distant towns. However, the tracks required continual maintenance to remain safe, and section crews maintained six-to-eight-mile stretches of track. These were the hardest railroad jobs and often only recently freed Black people and new immigrants were willing to take on the challenge that built the Heartland into what it is today.

The guided-project broadly asks the question: “what brings us to the Heartland?” All of us have our unique family stories that tell of how and why we arrived and stayed. Therefore, the unit can facilitate students’ learning about: 1) the history global migration to the Midwest; 2) a diverse depiction of Kansas history, including major historical figures, events, and periods that shaped the state; 3) Kansans who have fought for equal rights and social justice; and 4) an exploration of personal family heritage (family tree), and more. As part of the project, students will conduct primary research and seek out secondary sources in order to retell their family's “Coming to the Heartland” story. Teachers will be provided training and resources to tailor the content for their classroom settings, considering grade levels, different scales, state standards, behaviors, etc. Teachers will also be prepared to teach the curriculum in-person or remotely by developing distinct synchronous and asynchronous educational activities. We expect that students will hone their digital research skills in completing a family heritage and storytelling unit-based project, which also develops their literacy skills and builds knowledge in language arts, social studies, and fine arts. In particular, this project allows students to learn about issues affecting African, Latin American and Caribbean immigrant communities and heritage families; it intentionally positions students as knowledge producers, calling upon their awareness and critical understanding of their “roots” in the state of Kansas and their neighborhoods; ideally, it will let the diversity in your classroom flourish.



9:00 a.m. Welcome + Introduction to Workshop

Team members of the KU grant project, “Coming to the Heartland,” will introduce the initiative and explain the goals/objectives of the workshop.


9:30 a.m. Session 1: Introducing Oral Narratives of Latinx Migration to Kansas

Marta Caminero-Santangelo, Professor of English at the University of Kansas

In this session, you will will be introduced to oral narratives collected as part of the “Coming to the Heartland” project. The session will also include a book discussion of The Harvest (a collection of short stories) about Latinx migrant workers in the Midwest.


10:15 a.m. Session 2: Stories of African Migration to Kansas

In this presentation, I provide a brief overview of African immigration to the Midwest region of the United States. I will examine the change in trends in their immigration patterns and assess how recent policy changes have affected African immigrant integration into the American Society.

Abel Chikanda, Associate Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Science


11:00 a.m. Team Planning Time


12:00 p.m. Session 3: The Unexpected Caribbean and African Diaspora to Kansas

Explore a special exhibition that reveals the deep historical connections between Haiti and the United States through the lens of 20th-century Haitian art.

Giselle Anatol, Professor of English at the University of Kansas


1:00 p.m. Session 4: A Mexican History of Kansas (railroads, salt mines, farm workers, etc.)

In this session, we will think through the process of building a curriculum that engages students with Mexican histories of Kansas, in ways that are attentive to cultural specificity and community engagement beyond the classroom. We will work through the role of storytelling as visual, verbal, and auditory, and think through ways to build students’ cultural literacy through attention to storytelling as community practice.

Araceli Masterson-Algar, Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Kansas


2:00 p.m. Presentation of Unit-Based Projects