Dennis Denenberg, who has traveled around the United States for 23 years to promote what is known as the Core Knowledge Curriculum, offered these suggestions for parents:
* Mystery hero of the month -- Place a picture of a historical figure on the fridge and spend a few minutes a day learning about his or her life.
* Educational cereal boxes -- As a family activity, sit down and decorate your breakfast cereal with information from the life of a hero.
* Make a hero T-Shirt -- Pick an influential figure and make family shirts to wear and teach others.
In a society where pop culture icons like Kesha and Channing Tatum are more recognizable than key historical figures, Dennis Denenberg is crusading to put the real heroes back in America's classrooms.
The 30-year veteran in education, author and nationally known lecturer was in Chattanooga on Wednesday to promote what is called the Core Knowledge Curriculum.
Denenberg said American culture and schools hide history's heroes -- people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Thomas Jefferson and Jonas Salk. History comes alive when children learn not only about historical events, but about the people behind them.
Teaching students about the nation's heroes helps them retain facts and context. Children are interested in people, he said, and educators should help them learn about figures such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not Snooki.
Denenberg, a Pennsylvania native, visited St. Peter's Episcopal School. He gave two free public lectures.
"I was mesmerized at times. I truly was," said Alexis Bogo, president-elect at St. Peter's school and mother of a child in first grade there.
Denenberg discussed the Core Knowledge Curriculum, which St. Peters has used for years.
"It's preschool through eighth grade, and it's based on the premise that in order to think critically, you have to know things to think. You don't think critically in a vacuum," said Denenberg, who punctuated his presentation with colorful posters, hats and even a puppet show.
Audience members went along with Denenberg's lecture style, and many seemed to enjoy it.
"One of the reasons we chose St. Peter's was because of the Core Knowledge Curriculum," said Sarah Steffner, mother of a preschooler and a first-grader. "I can take some of this stuff and say here is something that is not 'Iron Man' and it's still exciting. ... And that's important."
Andrea Odle, who has a second- and third-grader in St. Peter's, looks forward to using some of Denenberg's ideas at home.
"I am just excited about all the fun and different ways he has to bring heroes into our children's lives, at home, at school, in play, all the time," she said. "We try hard to bring those ideas to our family and watching him today got me really excited about all the possibilities."