Teaching with the Library of Congress
This is a guest post from Kathleen McGuigan, who works in K-12 education at the Library of Congress. This is part one of a two-part series on professional development.
As the school year starts to wind down, we are ramping up for our busiest season – summer!
The warmest months give us an opportunity to spend time with educators from across the country as they work on-site at the Library of Congress at the Summer Teacher Institutes. Participants spend a week unpacking teaching strategies for using primary sources in the classroom and discuss possibilities to further student engagement, develop their critical thinking skills, and build content knowledge.
This year, the Library will host five institutes serving approximately 150 educators from K-16 and across the content areas. We love the institutes because we get to learn about what’s happening in classrooms and school libraries around the country. We hear time and time again, that our PD events are memorable because teachers make a shift in developing learning activities that truly become about students being in control of their own learning.
Listen to what three teachers from New York City share about their experiences with the Library after their PD session.
Tovelah Hirsch, a teacher from Miami Dade County Schools, adds from her experience at a 2011 institute, “I had a paradigm shift. I went from trying to include primary and secondary sources to meet state standards to [an a-ha moment]! It is natural to include real resources because it adds quality and authenticity with a human face. I also will be able to take what I have been given and share, disseminate, using all the ‘propaganda’ you have given me into perpetuity, with rigor!”
This post from last summer provides a sampling of the sorts of primary sources teachers discover in the course of an institute.
We would love to hear from you on what makes PD memorable for you.
In the second post, we will show you how you can use our materials and resources to build and deliver your own PD event.
Summer is a perfect time to reflect on the school year gone by. This week, Stephen Wesson of the Library of Congress showcases one of his favorite posts from 2012-2013.
This is a fairly recent post, but it’s one that I keep coming back to. I love getting to see the students in Teresa St. Angelo’s classroom engage with the films and photographs and carefully identify evidence, of course. But the photos and stories in this post are also a valuable reminder that primary sources are powerful teaching tools at any grade level.
What favorite posts of ours would you like to recommend?Kindergarten Historians: Primary Sources in an Early Elementary Classroom
This post is co-authored by the Library of Congress Teacher in Residence, Earnestine Sweeting and a Library of Congress 2011 Summer Teacher Institute participant, Teresa St. Angelo.
If you’ve ever wondered how early elementary students develop historical thinking skills, check out this lesson with a group of kindergarten historians. The Class of 2025 demonstrated their educational readiness while engaged in analyzing primary sources from the Library of Congress.
Teresa St. Angelo, a Library of Congress 2011 Summer Teacher Institute participant, teaches kindergarten at the John I. Dawes Early Learning Center in Manalapan, N.J., headed by Melissa Foy. State curriculum requires students to understand different roles in the family, school, and community, including occupations. This lesson using primary sources shows an exciting way for kindergarteners to discover how mail was transported and delivered in the past.
The young historians watched two early motion pictures. The first, a 1903 short film titled “Collecting mail” shows a man wearing the uniform of a mailman removing mail from the mailbox. From the moment the class electrician shut the lights off, the students were hooked. After the video, the students were asked to express their ideas about what they thought was happening. “My dad watches black and white movies all the time” provided evidence of one student making a personal connection.
In the next short film, the students observed a train taking up a mailbag. At the end of the film, when the mailbag was snatched from the suspension device, all the students started laughing and one girl said, “This is hilarious!”
The students were asked to independently analyze a photo of men working in a railway mail train. “Circle what you see that helps you guess where you think these men are working.” One student replied, “In a kitchen.”
Teresa’s response cultivated the skills of citing evidence to support ideas and evaluating information. She asked him to think about the things we see in a kitchen and find them in the image. When he couldn’t find the stove or the refrigerator, he reconsidered his conclusion. Teresa emphasized that discovery learning offers students opportunities to prove, or investigate, their ideas. The thinking routines they use to make observations and reflections when analyzing visual primary sources are carried over into other academic areas, notably literacy and science.
In small group conversations with their peers and adults, historians then expressed their thoughts and ideas around a set of three early 1900s photographs of a horse-drawn U.S Mail wagon at a railway station, unsorted mail at the post office, and a girl handing a letter to the mailman in “A letter to papa”. Their task was to describe the similarities and differences between mail delivery then and now.
To model the mail delivery that they had observed in these primary sources, each student created his or her own postcard using the 1904 stereograph “A letter to papa”. Each student wrote a message on the postcard, which was mailed home. Some students wrote, “I love history lessons,” “I love mail,” and “I love the Library of Congress.”
Tell us how you might use primary sources to promote discovery learning and introduce new information to your students.
When you hear the word “multimedia”, what do you think of? A video presentation on an interactive whiteboard? A mashup on YouTube?
Common Core State Standards and many other standards require that students compare informational texts in different media. However, multimedia texts aren’t limited to the 21st century. In fact, one of the most compelling multimedia campaigns in U.S. history was launched more than one hundred years ago, using paper, glue, and an effective set of persuasive techniques.
In the early 20th century, a battle was being waged over the role of children in the workforce, and much of that battle took place in the public sphere. Reform organizations like the National Child Labor Committee used all the tools of the growing mass media to make the case against child labor, including newspaper exposés, magazine articles, and illustrated lectures. (For more on this topic, try the Library of Congress lesson plan “Child Labor and the Building of America.”)
One of the powerful tools that reform organizations used, though, was also the most media-rich: the child labor exhibit panel. These poster-sized display boards were made to be persuasive yet portable, and child labor opponents took them almost everywhere, displaying them at conferences, on city streets, in the halls of Congress, and even at expositions like the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915.
The panels were dense with information in many different media. Charts, diagrams, and statistics were juxtaposed with cartoons and hand-drawn graphics. Text in a mix of sizes and shapes spelled out slogans and calls to action: “No future and low wages;” “What are we going to do about it;” “A national menace needs a national cure.” In the midst of all the rhetoric, child workers stared out at the viewer from photographs taken by the legendary NCLC photographer Lewis Wicks Hine.
The struggle over child labor continued off and on for decades. Today, these panels let students explore the persuasive power of multimedia texts. Students can browse some of the Library’s child labor exhibit panels and try the following:
- Choose one exhibit panel and identify how many different media are used in it. Which element do you think is most effective in communicating the panel’s message? How would the panel’s impact change if one of the elements were removed?
- Study one panel and summarize its argument in a single sentence. How much does this panel use evidence to make its case? How much does it use emotional appeals?
- Look closely at the photographs of working children. If the children in the photos had a chance to see these panels on display, how do you think they would have felt about how their images were being used?
Do you have a favorite among these panels? We’d love for you to share it in the comments.
You may know that Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day, but did you know that originally it honored only those who died in the Civil War?
In 1868, John Logan, the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union veterans, issued an order designating May 30th as a memorial day. He said this day should be for the purpose of “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Logan also asked that we guard their graves so that future generations can remember the cost of a free and undivided republic.
Primary sources from the Library of Congress can help students explore some of the ways people have commemorated Memorial Day in the past.
- Listen to the recording of the poem The Blue and the Gray. Ask them to explore the symbolism of the poem. What does it mean and how does it relate to the creation of Decoration Day?
- Read the oral histories of Kate Flenniken, Lula Bowers, Herbert Ruft, and the Poppy Lady and compare how different people at different periods of U.S. history observed Decoration Day/Memorial Day.
- Compare the images found in Halt of the Grenadiers Rochambeau in Union Square New York. “Decoration day” May 30, 1884, and Cérémonie du “Memorial Day” au Cimetière Américain de Suresnes, le 30 Mai 1920 using this primary source analysis tool. Explore the differences between each image. Do the students believe that these are appropriate ways to remember the war dead? Explain why or why not.
What comparisons did students make between these commemorations from the past and the commemorations of today? Let us know in the comments.
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You know him as the inventor of the telephone. You may have recently heard his voice. But before he became known the world over as an inventor and an entrepreneur, Alexander Graham Bell pursued another career. To mark Teacher Appreciation Week, we’d like to take a look at the work of Alexander Graham Bell, educator.
Education ran in Bell’s family. His father lectured on elocution and developed communication tools for deaf and hard of hearing students. Following in his father’s footsteps, Bell taught at schools for the deaf in London, Boston, and Hartford, Connecticut.
Bell had a lifelong interest in the mechanics of speech and hearing, and throughout his time in the classroom conducted experiments with new speech systems and with communication devices like the phonoautograph. Even when he left formal teaching, though, he continued to tutor individual students, including Helen Keller.
After Bell developed the telephone in 1876, his identity as an educator was eclipsed by his fame as an inventor. But his technical innovations were in large part fueled by his passion for teaching, and for helping his students communicate. Although today the validity of his deaf education efforts have come into question, to the end of his life Bell was sought out as an educator and provided advice and guidance to students and teachers.
Alexander Graham Bell wrote thousands of letters on many different topics and filled countless notebooks with his ideas. Examining Bell’s papers provides many opportunities to explore his scientific ideas and the personal interests behind them.
- Analyze the diagrams and notes in this early letter to his father. What concepts can you see that might have been influenced by his family’s interest in hearing and speech? Are there any ideas that might be connected to his later invention of the telephone?
- Bell had a wide range of interests in addition to science and education. Sample a selection of his letters on different topics, from aeronautics to photography to farming and beyond. What common threads can you find to connect these diverse subjects? Is there anything that surprises you?
What other sides of Alexander Graham Bell can your students discover?
Many teachers like to include mini-lessons or bell-ringers about “this day in history.” The Library of Congress offers two resources that recount what happened on a particular day using the Library’s collections of digitized primary sources: Jump Back in Time (introductory) and Today in History (advanced). Choose the one that best matches your students’ reading levels to build both content knowledge and research skills with primary sources in context.
The Built Environment
- May 1, 1931: the Empire State Building opened (introductory; advanced),
- May 27, 1937: the Golden Gate Bridge was completed and opened (introductory; advanced);
- May 6, 1856: Robert E. Peary, who claimed discovery of the North Pole, was born (introductory; advanced),
- May 14, 1607: the first permanent British settlement in North America was established at Jamestown, Virginia (introductory; advanced);
- May 16,1868: the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson (introductory; advanced),
- May 18,1896: The Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that separate-but-equal facilities were insufficient to satisfy the Fourteenth Amendment (introductory; advanced);
- May 15, 1856: author Lyman Frank Baum was born (introductory; advanced), and
- May 25, 1878: Performer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was born in Richmond, Virginia (introductory; advanced);
- May 24, 1844: Samuel F. B. Morse dispatched the first paper tape code message over an experimental telegraph line (introductory; advanced).
To engage your students immediately, distribute or display one primary source from an entry and invite them to jot down a single detail they notice and then share. To draw your students deeper into analyzing the primary sources, ask them to record observations, reflections and questions on the Library’s primary source analysis tool. Anne Savage offers tips in Blog Round-Up: Using the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
Students can also:
- Compare a secondary source account, such as a textbook explanation, to a primary source account. What can be learned from each? What cannot be learned from each? What questions do students have?
- Consider how a series of primary sources support or challenge information and understanding on a particular topic. Ask students to refine or revise conclusions based on their study of each subsequent primary source.
- Use the bulleted list of additional resources at the end of each Today in History entry to search for additional primary sources.
Some of our favorite ideas for using these resources came in the comments reacting to Primary Sources Every Day from the Library of Congress. Let us know how you use them!
Fierce newspaper and pamphlet debates in Spanish and English.
Sewing handbooks designed to advance “Americanization”.
Tales of divided sympathies during the Civil War and patriotic service in World War II.
Each of these historical artifacts is a part of the history of Mexican American communities in the 19th and 20th centuries. And each one can be found in the new Library of Congress primary source set, Mexican American Migrations and Communities.
This teacher resource showcases a wide variety of primary sources from over 200 years, providing students with a chance to explore many of the political and cultural developments that marked Mexican American life in that period. They also give teachers an opportunity to begin discussion of gaps in the historical record, and to look at the possible causes of those gaps.
This set is an especially good match for Common Core teachers, who will find informational texts in multiple formats, from newspapers and pamphlets to maps and oral histories, along with ripe opportunities to explore point of view and persuasive strategies.
There is no single Mexican American story, but rather multiple ones that primary sources can illuminate like nothing else can. We hope you’ll let us know if you have any favorites in this set, and tell us how you plan to use them in your own classroom.
This is a guest post by Bernice Ramirez. Bernice worked with the education team at the Library of Congress as part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship Program.
May is Bike Month, a time to celebrate the many reasons that people around the world ride bicycles. In the United States, bicycles exploded in popularity in the 1890s. Although at first limited to the wealthy, bicycle use quickly became widespread. They were used for commuting to work and school, recreation and sport, much like now. Clubs of bicycle riders, called “wheelmen,” were formed. A sampling of Library of Congress primary sources from the the end of the nineteenth century suggests that changes brought by bicycles extended beyond transportation.
Controversy developed around women’s ridership of bicycles, particularly related to fashion. During the Victorian era, women often wore long skirts that covered their ankles, and some considered women in pants improper. For many women, however, wearing pants while riding was simply more comfortable.
Bicycles allowed women more freedom and the rise of the bicycle coincided with the image of a “New Woman” who was more likely to take work outside of the home and become involved in politics, such as the women’s suffrage movement. This political cartoon by Frederick Burr Opper, for example, shows a woman engaging in various activities that were perceived to be unladylike.
Early bicycle culture provides an excellent opportunity to explore the lasting–and sometimes surprising!–consequences of a new technology
- Challenge students to explain Opper’s message in this political cartoon, and to cite evidence for their ideas. How does the woman in pants at the center of the cartoon contrast with the woman in the frame (behind her)?
- Encourage students to compare and contrast this picture of a messenger boy and this one of a messenger girl. What differences in the way they are dressed do you notice? How does their style differ from modern forms of dress?
- Select a few primary sources from and ask students how many predictions of change they can identify.
What other modes of transportation have had a major impact on U.S. society?
This is a guest post by Mary J. Johnson, an educational consultant to the Library of Congress.
May is Physical Fitness Month. Based on America’s popular culture obsession with physical fitness, one might be tempted to label fitness as a modern phenomenon. Primary sources hardly come to mind, but in fact, students can discover a rich and extensive history of physical fitness through the collections of the Library of Congress.
As early as the 1820s, schools began to introduce gymnastics and hygiene training into the curriculum, but physical education did not become a formal requirement until after the Civil War. This 1899 photograph of high school girls exercising with “a wall-mounted device using ropes and pulleys” does not look much different from gym equipment today, although fitness fashion has changed dramatically.
Conscription data released during World War I and II identified up to half of all military draftees physically unfit for combat. Schools heard the message. This 1942 photograph shows “Boys in the ‘commando’ course, part of the physical education program, learning the fireman’s ‘carry,’ or the correct method of carrying a wounded comrade.” You can find a gallery of similar images here.
- Work as a whole class to analyze the exercise equipment visible in the 1899 photograph of high school girls exercising and then to compare it with exercise equipment the students are familiar with or have used. How is the equipment today different from the equipment in the photographs? Why has it changed?
- Encourage your students to interview their parents or grandparents about their physical education experiences and to locate images as illustrations for those stories. What did they wear? What were their favorite activities? Why?
What else can be discovered by exploring the history of physical education in the U.S.?
Common Core State Standards, and many state content standards, emphasize reading informational text. Explore primary sources from the Library of Congress to discover informational text in many formats–including some formats that might surprise you.
The more complex the issue, the more varied the perspectives on it, and those perspectives are expressed in sometimes unexpected documents, like political cartoons and popular songs. Inviting students to engage with these raw materials of history requires them to evaluate as well as comprehend complex texts.
Primary source sets offer a great starting place. Skim the titles for a topic related to your teaching goals and select primary sources for use in your classroom.
For example, you might select documents about immigration to the United States in the early 20th century from the primary source set Immigration Challenges for New Americans and ask students to study them to learn about attitudes toward immigration in the US in the early 20thcentury.
A sequence that we have used effectively with teachers starts with Immigration figures for 1903. Looking carefully at the audience and purpose for this document is crucial to evaluating it. Students must understand the point of view or purpose and determine how that shapes the document. Direct students as needed with questions selected from the Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Books & Other Printed Texts. (Be sure they consider the organization name on the front page, and read the description on the back.)
Questions to consider: What is the song’s message about immigration? Is the cartoon in favor of Congressman Burnett’s “wall” or opposed? What evidence do they see to support their hypothesis?
Finally, play the recording and ask the students: How is it different to listen than to read the lyrics? Did the melody sound like they expected after reading the lyrics? How does each have a different impact?
Students might learn more about what Congressman Burnett proposed by reading newspapers of the day.
What can be learned from comparing multiple documents? What other unusual formats can be studied as informational texts?
“Appalachian Spring” and Primary Sources: Music Students Enrich Their Research and Their Performances
Students from the Baltimore School for the Arts enjoyed a rare research opportunity at the Library of Congress recently, and they produced a video reflecting on the value of their experience. The staff of the Library’s Music Division was so impressed with how these students used primary sources in their research that they featured the project in a recent blog post, An ‘Appalachian Spring’ Collaboration.
The students and their research coordinators explained how studying the primary sources expanded and enriched their study far beyond what they could get out of the textbooks and other books available in their school and public libraries. While it may not be possible to bring your students to the Library of Congress to research in the physical collections, the robust collections available at LOC.gov offer myriad opportunities to expand and enrich your lessons without leaving your school.
When we ask teachers how they use primary sources, they often have rich and creative answers about how they hook students’ attention, deepen understanding, and even review concepts and content. We hear less about assessment, and most of the responses are questions about how to construct assessments using primary sources.
The Stanford History Education Group has created formative assessments using primary sources from the Library of Congress. With these tools, teachers can gauge students’ historical understanding and ability to apply critical thinking skills by evaluating their analysis of primary source materials. The Spring 2013 issue of the TPS Journal, an online publication focused on pedagogical approaches to teaching with the Library’s digitized primary sources in K-12 classrooms, looks at how a teacher can assess not only content knowledge, but also critical thinking skills.
Best news? The assessments are purposely designed to save teachers time while providing specific information about students’ learning.
Learn about the guiding principles behind constructing your own assessments as well as using those that are readily available. For example:
- Ask students whether “The First Thanksgiving 1621” would help historians understand the relationship between the Wampanoags and Pilgrims in 1621. Teach them to ask basic questions such as: When was the painting made? When was the first Thanksgiving? Invite them to think about the gap in time, and why that might be important to keep in mind. (More detailed directions are available.)
Ask students to compare this letter to another from the Civil Rights Movement, decide which was written first, and explain their choice based on evidence from each letter. Students themselves as well as teachers can immediately identify gaps in their understanding of key concepts and events of the time. (More detailed directions are available.)
Explore the Archive of previous issues for even more research-based Learning Activities, and let us know which will be most valuable for your students.
Today’s post was co-written by Stephanie Greenhut at the National Archives and Stephen Wesson at the Library of Congress. It is also posted on the Education Updates blog from the National Archives.
In 10 words or less, it’s what we’ve got and how we got it.
But we’ll go on. Because we get asked this question a lot. Both of us do. And because both the National Archives and the Library of Congress provide excellent resources for teaching history, civics and government, the humanities, and more!
Let’s start with what we have in common: Making historical documents available to the public. The Library of Congress and the National Archives exist to preserve pieces of history and culture. As part of its mission to serve the U.S. Congress and the American people, a top priority of the Library is to “acquire, organize, preserve, secure and sustain for the present and future use of Congress and the nation a comprehensive record of American history.” The mission of the National Archives is to safeguard and preserve “the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage.” So we both store and protect documents, photographs, posters, moving images, audio, and more. And what’s really great is that we both make these accessible to the public. So you, your students, or anyone else can study what we have to understand the past.
But let’s get back to that key difference. What we have in our collections and holdings differs because of how it arrived through our doors. The National Archives, established in 1934, is the nation’s record keeper. By law, “permanently valuable” records of the federal government must come to the National Archives for safekeeping. So any record—be it a handwritten document, map, film reel, or email—created in the course of doing federal business, that falls into a category predetermined to be kept and preserved, is transferred to the National Archives when the agency or department that created it doesn’t need to refer to it any longer. Keeping only 1-3% of records the government produces still amounts to over ten billion records!
Meanwhile, the Library of Congress, established in 1800, is the world’s largest collection of knowledge and creativity, with treasures in 460 different languages that range from the Bay Psalm Book and European explorers’ maps to Thomas Edison’s films and the rough drafts of Langston Hughes. The Library takes in more than 10,000 objects a day, and they arrive in its in-box via a number of means. As the nation’s copyright repository, the Library receives two copies of every item registered for U.S. copyright. It also operates offices around the world to bring in and distribute materials from other countries. And many of the Library’s landmark objects and collections—such as the first map with the word “America,” and the papers of Abraham Lincoln—have been donated by individuals or groups, or purchased using donated funds. The Library is part of the legislative branch of our government, and the Archives is an independent federal agency within the executive branch.
Despite (and because of!) our differences, the Library and the National Archives are both great places to locate free primary sources in a wide variety of media for your classroom. Primary sources have a unique power to engage students, build their critical thinking skills, and help them create new understanding. You can find federal records like the Declaration of Independence, Voting Record of the Constitutional Convention, the Homestead Act, a letter from a soldier to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt asking her to be his son’s godmother, or the Pentagon Papers online from the National Archives. And at the Library of Congress website you can find Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, powerful photos from the Dust Bowl, and oral histories from survivors of slavery.
Both institutions make it easy to find the primary sources you need. The search engine at loc.gov and the online catalog at archives.gov let you search millions of online primary sources and narrow your search to find just the object you and your students need.
The education staffs at the National Archives and the Library both create education materials and teacher resources to help teachers unlock the potential of primary sources. The Teachers page on the Library of Congress website provides lesson plans and primary source sets, all searchable by content and Common Core State Standards, as well as online professional development and tools to help your students start analyzing primary sources right away.
The Teachers Resources page on the National Archives website includes information about visits and professional development, as well as a link to DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. On DocsTeach, you can locate primary sources, as well as find and create online learning activities using seven interactive tools in combination with documents, images, maps, charts, audio and video.
Do you already use primary sources and teaching resources from the Library of Congress or the National Archives? We hope the answer is both!
Two Asian Pacific Americans’ Wartime Experiences: Personal Histories from the Veterans History Project
This is a guest post by Bernice Ramirez. Bernice is working with the education team at the Library of Congress as part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship Program.
Like many immigrants to the United States, the earliest arrivals from Asia were motivated by a desire to fulfill their version of the American Dream. Often, these immigrants were met with a difficult reality in their new home. Asian Americans were not always embraced by locals and other immigrants, but they worked hard to earn their place in the history of the United States.
The sacrifices that Japanese Americans made during wartime stand as great examples of the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans. Two personal histories collected by the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress can help students examine the individual decisions that made these contributions possible.
American men from a wide range of backgrounds were drafted to fight in major wars, including World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War. Norman Saburo Ikari, an American of Japanese descent, was drafted to the Army shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this firsthand narrative of the Pearl Harbor attack that changed his life, Ikari describes how, while completing basic training, he learned that his mother and siblings had been separated and sent to different Japanese internment camps. Despite this news, Ikari asked to be transferred to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an infantry unit composed mostly of Americans of Japanese descent charged with very dangerous work. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team would go on to become among the most decorated infantry regiments in the United States Army; 21 of its members were awarded the Medal of Honor.
Asian American women were also forced to make difficult decisions. Early in her memoir, Road Runner, Carolyn Hisako Tanaka describes the traumatic experience of being forced to live in an internment camp for Japanese Americans. Upon her release, she would discover that their home had been burned down. Still, years later, Tanaka was working as an emergency room nurse when she decided to serve in Vietnam. Upon her return to the U.S., she was discouraged by the lack of appreciation she and her colleagues received for their duty. In order to avoid being spat on or called a “war monger,” she was encouraged to change into civilian clothes as soon as her plane arrived in the States.
- Compare and contrast the experiences of nurse Carolyn Hisako Tanaka and soldier Norman Saburo Ikari. What could have motivated Tanaka to serve in the Army after the traumatic experience she endured as a child? Similarly, Ikari notes that the draft and volunteer enlistment was closed to Japanese Americans soon after he was drafted. What could have motivated him to transfer to an infantry involved in dangerous fighting?
- Teachers can ask students to articulate their reaction to the two pictures of Tanaka that are included in this blog post.
- Teachers can guide students in thinking through the link between the two narratives from Tanaka and Ikari. What can you learn from each narrative as individual pieces and from the two together? What is missing in their descriptions?
How can the wartime decisions of these Americans inform your students’ perspectives on immigrant experiences?
Baseball still holds a special place in the culture of the United States. As this year’s season opened around the nation’s capital, we began to see more and more people wearing baseball caps, shirts and jackets with their team’s favorite logo.
Though baseball has been a part of the culture of the United States for many years, not all were allowed to play in the major leagues. The Library of Congress timeline “Baseball, the Color Line and Jackie Robinson” documents the history of minority involvement in baseball, including April 15, 1947, the day Jackie Robinson broke the color line established in 1887.
In spite of abuse from both baseball fans and other teams, as well as threats against him and his family, Robinson played for ten seasons with the Brooklyn (later Los Angeles) Dodgers, had a lifetime batting average of .311, and helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant several times. In 1955, he helped them win the World Series. His number 42 was permanently retired by the Major Leagues in 1997.
The Primary Source Set Baseball Across a Divided Society provides a teaching guide and easy access to primary sources including images, sheet music and an early Edison film to help students learn more about baseball and its role in various communities in the United States.
- Compare the image of the baseball team from the US Naval Academy to the image of students from the Morris Brown College baseball team. What are the similarities and differences between the pictures?
- Students should read Branch Rickey’s speech for the “One Hundred Percent Wrong Club” where he discusses why he decided to bring an African American player into the major leagues. In it he describes the type of man he needed to break the color line. Why do your students think Jackie Robinson fit Rickey’s description?
- Students can study the timeline “Baseball, the Color Line and Jackie Robinson” and add other events that were taking place at the same time as those on the timeline. What parallels do they see? Ask them to consider how national and world events affected baseball.
The Library of Congress has other baseball related resources online including, of course, statistics! Explore Baseball Cards, 1887-1914 and Spalding Baseball Guides for primary sources that can be used to support math activities.
Ask your students why Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball had importance beyond the baseball field. Let us know in the comments how they responded and what questions they had.
This guest post is by Lee Ann Potter, Director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress.
A small collection of 14 black and white photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress offers a seemingly simple starting point for engaging lessons and activities on a wide range of subjects, and may well inform, inspire, and motivate students.
Men who endeavored to cross Antarctica on wooden skis are featured in the photos taken nearly 100 years ago by one man, Frank Hurley. They were part of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. Although their attempt to cross the icy continent failed, every member of the expedition team survived and their heroic efforts have inspired another team of modern day explorers.
Members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition of 2014 visited the Library of Congress on February 20, 2013, and described their plans to re-create the journey that Shackleton and his men set out to accomplish. The Science, Technology, and Business Division of the Library sponsored a program titled “By Endurance, We Conquer: Ernest Shackleton and Lessons of Leadership for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition 2014.” Joanne Davies, Stewart Stirling, and Glenn Stein not only described their plans, but also explained their motivation and responded to questions. The program is now available online from the Library.
Anticipating temperatures ranging from -40° to 40° F. and high winds, the team is determined to ski and kite-ski the 1700 miles in approximately 85 days. They expect to consume between 8,000 and 10,000 calories per day, and plan to carry their gear on sleds. They are excited to finish the job that Shackleton began. According to expedition leader Joanne Davies, they have found great inspiration in his story, describing him as a good researcher, well-informed about technologies of his day, fair, tenacious, and someone who learned from his mistakes.
Colleagues from MacNeil/Lehrer Productions attended the presentation and produced a short film featuring additional footage from the Library’s collections.
Encourage students to study the photographs and create a narrative as to what they think happened. Next show them the MacNeil/Lehrer clip and ask them to compare their narratives with what actually happened. Ask if they might have an interest in crossing Antarctica!
What do the photographs make you want to know about Shackleton and the upcoming 2014 expedition?
This post includes contributions from the Library’s Cheryl Lederle and Stephen Wesson.
Is a primary source always the genuine article?
Primary sources are original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. We know that primary sources can show a certain point of view or a certain perception about an event. But students may not think about the reasons why a particular primary source was created, or what the audience at the time expected of it. For some primary sources, it’s worth asking whether their creators ever intended them to be taken as the literal truth.
Encourage them to use the Primary Source Analysis Tool to keep track of their observations, reflections, and questions. You may select questions from the Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Motion Pictures to focus and deepen their analysis.
What differences and similarities do they see with the films? Ask them which film they think provides a more accurate depiction of what was happening after the San Francisco earthquake. What helped them to decide which film is more accurate?
Students may recognize that one of the films is a staged re-creation of the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake. What clues are there to indicate which film is an actuality and which was re-created later? Why is it important to be able to identify when a film is a reenactment of a scene?
Ask them why they think someone would have created such a film. Do they think an audience at the time would have mistaken the reenactment for the actual event? You might challenge your students to think about reenactments that they’ve watched in current media, and to list the reasons someone might watch something that they know is not an actual film of the event.
Interested in exploring other reenactments of historic events? Use the search box on the Library’s home page to search for “historical reenactments”or “trick films” and use the pull down menu to limit your search to film and video.
Leave us a comment about how your students use the lessons from this activity when examining other primary sources.
This guest post is from the Library of Congress Teacher in Residence, Earnestine Sweeting.
It didn’t occur to me until recently that my math lesson was missing a primary source. After a simple search for “tetrahedron” or “tetrahedral kites” on the Library of Congress Web site, I was fascinated to find primary sources that could have enriched my geometry and measurement lessons.
To strengthen my fifth grade students’ skills in geometric fundamentals, I would schedule a few math periods for them to build a tetrahedron, which is a three-dimensional triangular figure. What I like most about this project is that it provides a challenge for students who crave multi-step problems to solve while it offers hands-on appeal for all. Tetrahedra are combined to design a tetrahedral kite. After some construction work with drinking straws, string, and tissue paper–plus a little will-this-fly skepticism–my students went out on a breezy day to see their tetrahedral kites take flight.
I was amazed to discover the use of tetrahedral units in the construction of kites found in Alexander Graham Bell’s Family Papers were the same principles I used with my students. Little did I know that Bell used the tetrahedral principle by combining triangular units to build very large kite structures. After reflecting on my students’ skepticism, I wonder if their reaction would have been different had I shared Bell’s theory of very large kite structures made out of light materials.
In Bell’s papers, he insisted that the lack of interest in kites arose from the false idea that a kite could only be a plaything or toy. I encouraged my students to refer to the structure only as a tetrahedron, rather than a kite. My rationale was not only to build their vocabulary, but also to emphasize the academic value in engaging in such a project. This 1904 Washington Times article explains that Bell had long been interested in the flying machine problem, and became convinced that a successful kite will also make a successful flying machine.
- After reading this 1903 St. Louis Republic article, students can consider the process Bell used to find solutions to the problems he faced. Encourage students to compare and contrast how Bell’s problems were similar to those they’ve encountered in their own real-world endeavors–or those of others they might know. How did Bell’s experiences contribute to the overall success of his flying machine?
- Ask students to think of a classmate or a friend who would benefit from reading Bell’s papers and explain the reasons for making the recommendation. What can we learn from Bell’s argument to think differently about something once considered to have no practical use?
For additional resources, go to With Wings as Eagles: From Flight to Fantasy.
Share the discoveries you’ve made when using primary sources to add depth or historic achievements to your math or science lessons.