Coming back to school this fall has presented new challenges for students, their families and educators. But for Cathy Cluck, it has presented an opportunity.
Cluck teaches AP U.S. history at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. And as she was preparing her lessons for this very nontraditional year, she asked herself, "What can I do now that I wouldn't be able to do in a normal year?" Cluck tells NPR that she "just kind of had this idea: that I teach American history and what if I went to the places where American history happened?"
So she did. Cluck took a 15-day road trip (dubbed the #greatamericanhistoryroadtrip,) to visit some of the places she teaches her students about each year.
Places like Gettysburg, the Lincoln Memorial, Jamestown, even the site of the famous Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel.
Each day, she went live for her students, embracing the technology and distance, to bring her students closer to what they're learning in class. She also posted daily highlights to her YouTube.
Day 1: Clunk went live via Zoom from Williamsburg, Va. on Aug. 24. Cluck started her video in front of the stocks at Colonial Williamsburg.
Clunk's students seem to have enjoyed her journey. "I just love it; I just love it!" Julia Franco, one of Clunk's students, told Morning Edition. "I don't know how to explain; it just makes me more excited to learn."
The road trip hasn't all gone as planned. Along the way Cluck's made adjustments to her itinerary to comply with another new reality of the pandemic: travel restrictions.
While she'd planned to head to Boston as part of her trip, by the time she'd made it to New York on Aug. 28, she had to change plans.
"When I pulled in last night, remembering how hard this area was hit with COVID," Cluck shared in her YouTube video for day 6 of her journey, "there's a travel ban in place for people from Texas ... So I am turning back and heading South."
Cluck is back in Austin now, preparing for a version of in-person teaching when, later this month, students who want to may return to classrooms. And should her school need to return to distance learning for all students, she's got another educational adventure mapped out.
"If we ended up going remote again, I would love to do a trip through the South, spend some more time on civil rights things," Cluck says. "So if I get the opportunity to do it again, I would certainly love to."