On Friday April 6th, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the University of Colorado at Boulder hosted their third teacher workshop in the San Luis Valley.  The workshop focused on stories along Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway and the Courageous Conversations that can take place in classrooms revolving around those stories.  

The 28 educators who attended the workshop started the morning watching four Alamosa High School students (Luz Gonzalez, Jazmine Palacios, Andrea Rodriguez and Jaqueline Palacios) perform their script, Chicano Rights: Conflict and Compromise in the San Luis Valley ,written for this year’s regional history fair. The student presentation demonstrated that the fight for equality among race is just as prevalent today as it was 50 years ago. One part of the presentation spoke about the car bombings that occurred during the Chicano Rights Movement in Fort Collins and named those who lost their lives. One attendee of the workshop had been present at the event and was close to those who suffered for the cause.  An emotional memory was sparked and the woman, fighting back tears, thanked the students for keeping the memory of those who lost their lives alive by creating and sharing their presentation.

The students also spoke about the creation of the Sociedad Protección Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos (S.P.M.D.T.U.), which translates as the Society for the Mutual Protection of United Workers. This society was founded in 1900 to combat discrimination, work for social and economic rights, celebrate their culture, and provide basic social insurance programs such as unemployment and burial aid. In the 1920’s the society built the  Concilio Superior building as its headquarters in Antonito, CO. The building is now designated as a National Historic Site. Attendees then took a field trip to visit the historical S.P.M.D.T.U building with the Hermanos (Brothers) of the organization.


Tori Martinez, Executive Director for SdCNHA, spoke with the educators about the importance of place-based learning in the classroom. Place-based learning allows students to engage with the history that surrounds them within the place they call home. There is so much history and culture in the San Luis Valley, it makes a perfect location to encourage teachers to incorporate place-based learning stories that fall along Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway and the Courageous Conversations that can take place in classrooms revolving those stories to their lesson plans. By allowing students to connect with local culture and history it empowers them to take ownership of the stories and builds a sense of pride about the community they live in.  “These communities hold powerful and historically significant stories that honor culture, history and traditions.”

SdCNHA shared how to access their Primary and Secondary resources and lesson plans available on their website www.sdcnha.org/education. Primary sources are the voices of the past. They are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.  Documents, letters, posters, film, artifacts, photographs, maps, etc. can be primary sources that tell the story of people, places, and events of the past. According to the Library of Congress, “Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.” A secondary source is one that gives information about a primary source. These sources contain second hand information that has already appeared in primary documents. In this source, the original information is selected, modified and arranged in a suitable format for the purpose of easy location by the users.Secondary sources involve generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of the original information

Margorie McIntosh from UC at Boulder shared her Latino History Project and donated 9 books to the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area to use as permanent resources. Evelyn Firman, Boulder Valley secondary school teacher, and Flora Sanchez, retired Boulder Valley elementary school teacher came to present at the workshop to show their success with using place based learning in their lessons plans and presented on how teachers in the San Luis Valley could incorporate the same principles. Flora Sanchez spoke to the group about how to hold courageous conversations in the classroom and why it’s  important to not shy away from talking about race and other difficult topics in education.

Lindsay Pruett from Great Sand Dunes National Park showed some of the hands on and place-based learning they use with visitors and how that can be moved into the classroom.

Participants from the workshop are in the process of each writing a lesson plan featuring place-based learning within the San Luis Valley. Once submitted, SdCNHA will post the lessons plans to their education page for all teachers to have access to. Lesson plans about the San Luis Valley from past workshops have been about Historical Picture Analysis, Identity Quilt and Spanish Language. Lesson plans in the works cover a variety of topics including: mythology, virtual reality tour of history sites, photo analysis of family members, and the qualities of a good citizen featuring local community members, among others.

To learn more about SdCNHA or to access educational resources please visit www.sdcnha.org, email info@sdcnha.org or call (719)580-4070