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The Opper Project: Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach History

The Opper Project: Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach History
January, 2007

Because of increased interest among Ohio’s K-12 teachers in using editorial cartoons as a tool for teaching history, the Cartoon Research Library, The Ohio State University History Teaching Institute, and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists have created The Opper Project: Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach History. The Opper site includes 12 lesson plans based on topics aligned to the State of Ohio’s K-12 content standards for social studies/history and for social studies skills and methods. Designed by local high school teachers who participated in a workshop in August 2006, each lesson plan includes high-resolution reproductions of between 4-6 cartoons, learning objectives, downloadable worksheets, assignments, and extension activities.

The site is named for Ohioan Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937), who was the first great American-born editorial cartoonist.
The goals of the Opper Project are:
. To increase the understanding of editorial cartoons as primary source materials, not mere illustrations, though the use of close reading techniques for this type of graphic commentary.
. To use editorial cartoons as documents that can increase our understanding of historical events and personalities.
. To stimulate historical thinking about recurring controversies in history.
. To employ editorial cartoons about today’s news to develop analytical skills related to current issues and events.

Phase I of the Opper Project was made possible in part by a generous grant from Michael and Susan Kahn. Michael Kahn, senior litigation partner at Folger, Levin & Kahn in San Francisco, is the author of May It Amuse the Court, a book examining editorial cartoons about the Supreme Court and Constitution. An avid collector of editorial cartoons, Kahn is an advocate of using editorial cartoons to teach history.

Phase II of the Opper Project is planned for summer 2007, when 12 additional lesson plans will be developed on 12 additional topics. Phase II of the Opper Project is scheduled to be launched in late 2007. The goal is eventually to expand the Opper Project to a national user base.

The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library is the largest and most comprehensive academic research facility documenting printed cartoon art. For almost thirty years, the library has promoted cartoon art by mounting numerous exhibits on campus, lending for exhibits elsewhere, and hosting seminars, workshops and conferences.

The Ohio State University History Teaching Institute of The Harvey Goldberg Program for Excellence in Teaching delivers professional development and training to Ohio’s public school teachers by linking one of the nation’s leading academic history departments to K-12 education in Ohio. Its teacher training initiatives integrate the skills of historical inquiry, an enhanced grasp of subject matter content, and seek to increase the use of primary source materials and technology in secondary classrooms.

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) is a professional association concerned with promoting the interests of staff, freelance and student editorial cartoonists in the United States. The AAEC has worked with Newspapers in Education to sponsor Cartoons fro the Classroom, a program designed to aid educators at all levels to use editorial cartoons in teaching history, social studies and current events.