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July 7, 2008

"Author, Mark Wilensky, is a featured story on the initial launch of Real American Stories. The site’s goal is for citizens across the country to add their own video stories to the site. (Mark is the one with the baseball cap, and the Colorado Mountains in the background.)"

Teacher's mission: history for the district
By Jeff Francis

June 12, 2008

If Mark Wilensky, a teacher at Stevens Elementary School, hadn't been so forthcoming about his subject matter, his latest book may have been accused of duplicating material from another author — and a pretty famous one at that.

However, Wilensky is open about the inspiration for "The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine."

The book's aim is to bring Paine's decisive founding document to a young audience, such as Paine's fifth-graders. What's more, Wilensky's book has attracted attention to the school district that could make it a name in national history circles.

"It's about introducing the founding documents to an audience that couldn't read them in the past," Wilensky said of his book. "The whole philosophy is helping kids learn about the founders."

Wilensky initially self-published "Common Sense," and hauled it to a 2006 history conference at New York University. However, in the intervening years Wilensky was able to locate a publisher, and caught the attention of the prestigious Gilder Lehrman Institute, which is dedicated to furthering historical studies.

The Institute's relationship with Wilensky recently yielded a grant for Stevens Elementary, making it not only one of 27 schools nationally to receive a grant, but the only public elementary school to receive it. The school doesn't yet know how much grant money it will receive, or how it will be spent. Principal Marie Norby-Loud said a seminar at the University of Northern Colorado this summer will help to finalize plans for the money.

"We could use them for staff development; we could use them for traveling exhibits," Norby-Loud said. "We'll get to listen to some pretty awesome presenters that talk about ways to handle this type of curriculum."

Wilensky will again travel this summer, attending seminars to forge more connections for himself and Jefferson County R-1 School District.

"I'm unbelievably excited," he said. "Most of the schools that are affiliates are on the east coast. We could become a magnet district for history, and that would be great."

Colonial America was a continent with multiple cultures and customs spanning vast geographic distances. Tom Paine's amazing persuasive essay Common Sense unified these seemingly conflicting characteristics into an extraordinary vision.

Read the documents that set the world in motion.



Mr. Wilensky is a fifth-grade teacher in Jefferson County Colorado, where he has been accused of teaching his Colonial America and Revolutionary War classes with enthusiastic zeal. Read More...

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