Teaching with the Library of Congress
Welcome (or welcome back!) to Teaching with the Library of Congress, where we hope you discover and discuss the most effective techniques for using Library of Congress primary sources in the classroom. We invite readers to engage with topics ranging from What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source? to what’s happening “next month in history?” Here are staff picks for places to start – or continue – teaching with primary sources.
What does the Library of Congress have for me?
“There are millions of primary sources online at the Library of Congress! Where do I start?” is a common question from K-12 teachers. Both The Library of Congress Teachers Page: Resources for Getting Started with Primary Sources and What the Library of Congress Has for Teachers: Primary Sources and Tools and Techniques to Use Them offer a number of easy ways to jump in to teaching with the Library’s online collections of primary sources.
Primary source analysis strategies
We’ve gathered strategies, techniques, and tools for analyzing primary sources into a couple of handy reference posts.
- Blog Round-Up: Primary Source Analysis Strategies “presents…low-tech ideas that will work in every classroom, no matter what the level of technology access.”
- Blog Round-Up: Using the Primary Source Analysis Tool points to articles offering ways to improve students’ ability to observe, reflect, and question primary sources as they move toward constructing knowledge. Two of the highlights are Top Ten Tips for Facilitating an Effective Primary Source Analysis, garnered from teachers; and Selecting Questions to Increase Student Engagement, which suggests effective ways to use the set of teacher’s guides to analyze many primary source formats, including maps, political cartoons, sound recordings, and more.
Looking for classroom activities? Practicing Close Observation: Spying on the Past introduces even the youngest students to primary source analysis with a focus on the foundational skill of observation. Introduce students to the value of exploring multiple perspectives and deepen their skills at reading informational text with strategies outlined in Informational Text: Multiple Points of View in Multiple Formats.
Leave a comment if you try any of these strategies, or if you have one to add.
Trace the routes immigrants took to North America. Highlight the orbits in Copernicus’ map of the solar system. Circle the “no” votes on Thomas Jefferson’s personal chart tracking votes on the Constitution. Zoom in on the faces of new arrivals as they step ashore at Ellis Island in a Thomas Edison film.
As the new school year begins, the Library of Congress invites students everywhere to touch, draw on and analyze some of its most valuable treasures–all via a new set of free interactive ebooks for iPads.
The new Library of Congress Student Discovery Sets bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details, and make notes about what they discover.
The first six Student Discovery Sets are available now for the iPad, and can be downloaded for free on iBooks. These sets cover the U.S. Constitution, Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance, and Understanding the Cosmos.
With a swipe of a finger, learners can peer into the workshop where the Statue of Liberty was built or scrutinize George Washington’s notes on the Constitution. Using the portability that tablets bring, students can hand their work to a classmate to collaborate.
The objects in the Student Discovery Sets are primary sources–items created by eyewitnesses to history. From Galileo’s drawings of the moon to Zora Neale Hurston’s plays to Thomas Edison’s films, these maps, songs, posters, sheet music and iconic images immerse students in history, culture and science and give them the power to explore.
Primary sources have unique instructional power, says the Library’s director of Educational Outreach, Lee Ann Potter. “By analyzing primary sources, students can engage with complex content, build their critical thinking skills and create new knowledge. The Library’s new Student Discovery Sets provide rich tools for launching that process of analysis and discovery.”
The sets are designed for students, providing easy access to open-ended exploration. A Teacher’s Guide for each set, with background information, teaching ideas and additional resources, is one click away on the Library’s website for teachers, loc.gov/teachers.
Try these new interactive tools and let us know how you might use them!
This post is by Rebecca Newland, the current Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.
History is most fascinating when we feel connected to the people with direct experience of the events. One way to pique student interest is by using primary sources from the Library of Congress – letters, photographs, and oral histories — that document real people’s lives. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress recently launched the Civil Rights History Project, a digitized collection of interviews with active participants in the Civil Rights movement and essays about the movement.
These oral histories offer students the opportunity to watch and listen to real people, many of whom are still living, tell their stories about working with groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), participating in events like the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), the Freedom Rides (1961), the Selma to Montgomery Rights March (1965), sit-ins, and voter registration drives in the South.
Consider listening to portions of interviews that relate to what you are studying in class. Each interview includes a time stamped, searchable transcript. One method of introducing students to oral histories is to begin by asking students to listen and watch without distraction. Watch and listen a second time with the transcript. Invite students to annotate the transcript. Select questions from the Analyzing Oral Histories Teacher’s Guide to prompt students to observe, reflect, and ask questions about what they hear and see. After listening a second time, ask students: What did you notice the second time that you didn’t the first?
Add ”Thinking Like a Historian” routines to deepen analysis:
- Source: Identify the item’s author and purpose. Consider point of view and credibility.
- Contextualize: Situate the item and its events in time and place.
- Close Reading: Identify and evaluate what the source says, paying special attention to word choice.
- Corroborate: Compare claims and evidence across multiple sources to determine agreement and disagreement.
- Reading the silences: What is missing? Details? Perspectives?
Encourage students to reflect on the significance of oral histories when studying the civil rights movement of the 1960s by asking:
- What can we learn from oral histories?
- How is learning from an oral history different from studying other formats?
Reflect on your own teaching:
- How do oral histories support your students to help them develop listening skills?
- What opportunities do oral histories present for evaluating a speaker’s point of view and reasoning?
- What kinds of resources would help your students develop a more complete understanding of the events?
Share in the comments below: How will you engage your students with oral histories from the collections of the Library of Congress?
“This has been a great sharing of ideas & resources!”
“I will be sharing with my department tomorrow!”
“How exciting! Can’t wait to take it back to my classroom.”
– Participants in the Library of Congress 2013 Constitution Day educator webinar.
UPDATE: A recording of the session is available here. Please join the conversation in the comments.
The Library of Congress 2014-15 educator webinar series kicks off tonight at 7:00 ET with a program about Constitution Day Resources. Join teachers and school librarians from around the country to get quick access to primary sources and teacher tools to use with your students in time for Constitution Day. This session is appropriate for educators from all grade levels and content areas. The program is open to the first 99 attendees to log on here.
The hour-long program will start with an analysis of a primary source related to the Constitution and participants will be invited to discuss instructional strategies that can be used with primary sources. In addition, education specialists will highlight resources related to Constitution Day for teachers from the Library’s vast online collections.
Throughout the year, the Library will be hosting educator webinars every other Tuesday at 7:00 ET focusing on a variety of instructional strategies for using primary sources in instruction. The 2014 schedule is now available. In addition to the webinars, we will be hosting Hangouts with subject matter experts from around the Library. Watch here for reminders about each!
A recording of tonight’s session will be added to this blog post, so if you can’t make it, please check back here later and join the conversation in the comments.
In the meantime, you can brush up on your Constitutional knowledge by visiting the Library’s page of Constitution Day teacher resources, or by browsing Constitution-related posts from the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog.
Last year the Library’s education staff provided a selection of primary sources that documented what we did on our summer vacations. This was such a popular post that we decided once again to share how we spent our summer vacations using items from the Library’s online collections. We hope you enjoy this year’s adventures and get some ideas on how primary sources might help you learn more about your students and their interests.
Lee Ann Potter
My husband and I spent a long weekend in Niagara Falls. While walking along the Canadian side, we read a historic marker that described a mid-nineteenth century suspension bridge that carried trains over the Niagara River not far from the amazing falls. While my imagination could envision such an engineering feat, an 1856 Currier and Ives lithograph showed it to be even more remarkable.
I spent most of the summer in Washington, DC, at the Library working with teachers from across the country who came here for our Summer Teacher Institutes. Our last week was a special focus Institute on Civil Rights, in conjunction with the Library’s upcoming exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This image, “CORE members swing down Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, toward 69th St. ferry on trek to Washington” would be powerful to use with students and reminds me of the amazing 131 teachers who also came to Washington, DC, our nation’s capital, on a mission.
This summer, three generations of my family vacationed together on the Delaware coast. We made several trips across the bridge depicted in this planning document from the Library’s collection to travel to and from Rehoboth Beach.
My husband and I got married in August on our way to a camping trip to Acadia National Park. As one of our first wedding gifts, we were given a framed map of Camden, Maine, the town we overlooked during our ceremony. As a wedding gift to ourselves, we purchased what I call the “condo tent” for our life-long married adventures in the great outdoors. I was amazed to find this image which I imagine to be one of the first to capture car camping. It was the best summer yet!
This summer my family visited New York, where we took in a retrospective on the Futurist movement at the Guggenheim Museum. It included a number of architectural drawings, including works by Antonio Sant’Elia, and it was interesting to view these plans for vast, angular towers within the organic curves of Frank Lloyd Wright’s museum building.
I spent a long weekend outside of Richmond, Virginia, and drove past a number of Civil War battlefields. The Library has rich collections related to the Civil War, so I had many choices. This photograph of a military balloon got me thinking about the role of technology in war, as in life.
For the past year I have had the great honor of serving as president of the Society of American Archivists, North America’s oldest and largest national archival professional association. This year’s conference was held in Washington, DC, and the all-attendee reception was held in the Great Hall here at the Library. I was proud to showcase where I work and grateful to my colleagues who helped to make the reception and the entire conference a success.
Travel was not in the cards for me this summer, so I “got away” by reading historical fiction. I like to delve into the actual events that inspire a book – or the life of the author – by hunting for and examining related primary sources. Viewing images of abolitionists Sarah Moore Grimké and her sister Angelina and reading what Frederick Douglass said about them brought me closer to these characters in the Sue Monk Kidd novel, The Invention of Wings.
Maine is a beautiful state I had the good fortune to visit this August. We spent a few days exploring Bar Harbor and its surrounding areas including Acadia National Park. This sunset picture from the top of Cadillac Mountain captures the beauty of the area. Our visit was a bit earlier in the evening, but accompanied by a rainbow ending an afternoon of rain.
Now it’s time for you to share your adventures using primary sources from the Library of Congress collections. Share your stories along with a link to an item from the collections, or tell us how you used primary sources to learn about your students at the start of the school year.
This post is by Rebecca Newland, the current Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.
I first encountered the K-12 education program at the Library of Congress when I attended a Summer Teacher Institute in August 2012. This one week altered my thinking about student engagement and my role as a librarian working with students and teachers. After I returned to my school library, positive experiences using primary sources prompted me to look for additional opportunities at the Library of Congress. This led me to apply to be the Teacher in Residence. My selection was a dream come true.
In my first blog post as Teacher in Residence, I set a number of goals: to connect primary sources to literature, to create research questions to advance inquiry, and to foster library skills. I was able to meet these goals in a number of ways and to reach out to teachers and librarians with approaches to working with primary sources and teaching research skills.
- I am particularly proud of a blog post suggesting resources and strategies for addressing the controversies surrounding Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a frequently-taught and frequently-challenged work of American literature.
- In another post I offered suggestions and resources for using primary sources to inspire students to write their own research questions.
- Two additional posts furthered the discussion about primary sources and research by examining how sourcing and contextualizing can strengthen analysis.
I also wanted to become a better teacher, librarian, and resource for students and teachers. I was able to meet this goal by facilitating a variety of Library of Congress professional development workshop experiences–some face-to-face here at the Library, some in local schools, and some online.
These offerings introduced educators to strategies for using Library of Congress primary sources to engage students, build critical thinking skills, and construct knowledge. The energy created by educators engrossed with primary sources during these sessions was infectious; I floated on air, knowing that they were experiencing what I did when I first realized the power of primary sources. They returned to their students excited about strategies for using primary sources.
Working with teachers during our Summer Teacher Institutes was a great honor. Amazing educators from across the nation traveled to Washington, DC to immerse themselves in topics across the curriculum, including civil rights and sciences such as chemistry and biology. These were perhaps the most exhausting and invigorating five weeks of my career.
Throughout the process of writing, creating resources, and working with teachers and librarians, I have had the chance to see a wide variety of amazing items in the Library’s collections from Walt Whitman’s journals to Alexander Graham Bell’s letters to civil rights activists’ oral histories. I look forward to another year in this amazing place working with knowledgeable and dedicated professionals who inspire me with their enthusiasm for educators and students.
Mark your calendars! The National Book Festival is this Saturday at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center. Events start at 10am and continue until 10pm.
Authors at this year’s festival include Judith Viorst, Jules Feiffer, Jack Gantos, Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson and Susan Stockdale. Evening events include a Poetry Slam; a session on graphic novels; another session on how great books become great movies; and a celebration of the works of Octavio Paz, Efrain Huerta and Jose Revueltas.
Staff from the Educational Outreach Division and the Young Readers Center will be in the Library of Congress Learning Center of the Let’s Read America Pavilion, located on the second level in Hall D, from 10am-5pm. Come and see how primary sources can be used to enhance and enrich the experience of reading a book. Teachers will have the opportunity to learn about our educational resources and pick up related materials.
The Children’s Guide to the National Book Festival provides an event schedule, tips on how to navigate the Festival, information on some of the authors, an Eye Spy game using the Book Festival poster, and information on the Book Festival patch for Boy and Girl Scouts that will be available at the festival.
We hope to see you all there!
This post comes courtesy of Uhuru Flemming of the Library of Congress.
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.
September highlights include the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty (introductory; advanced) and America’s first celebrated Labor Day (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:
- September 12, 1918: American forces under General Pershing launched their first offensive in World War II (introductory; advanced),
- September 22, 1776: Patriot Nathan Hale was hanged for spying on British troops (introductory; advanced);
- September 1, 1773: Phillis Wheatley’s collection of poetry was published (introductory; advanced),
- September 13, 1876: American writer Sherwood Anderson was born (introductory; advanced),
- September 28, 1912: William C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues” was published (introductory; advanced);
- September 6, 1860: Social reformer and pacifist Jane Addams was born (introductory; advanced),
- September 18, 1895: Booker T. Washington delivered the speech that came to be known as the Atlanta Compromise (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 the 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 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!
As teachers and librarians return to their schools and prepare for a new year, we’d like to take the opportunity to reintroduce ourselves, and to remind you of all that the Library offers to teachers.
loc.gov: The primary sources teachers need, all for free. The Library of Congress is not only a great library–it’s also one of the world’s richest destinations for educators seeking primary sources. The Library’s online collections contain more than 30 million digitized historical artifacts and documents, spanning centuries of human history and crossing all disciplines. They’re all available to everyone for free, with no subscription and no login, at loc.gov.
loc.gov/teachers: Teacher tools and professional development supporting the use of primary sources. Primary sources have a unique educational power. When used effectively, they can engage students, build their critical thinking skills, and support them as they construct new knowledge. The Library’s Web site for teachers offers ready-made lesson plans, primary source sets, and primary source analysis tools, as well as online professional development and information on our summer teacher programs.
The Teaching with the Library of Congress blog: Every week, our blog highlights powerful primary sources from the Library’s collections and showcases new tools and teaching strategies. Search our archive for a trove of posts exploring different aspects of teaching with primary sources, from selection to observation and analysis.
@TeachingLC: The Library’s Twitter feed for educators brings you timely primary sources and teaching ideas, as well as the latest news about our programs and activities. Follow us and tweet at us–we love to hear about ways we can help.
This school year is going to be an exciting one for the Library, as we expand our science offerings, launch Civil War and Civil Rights resources, add new functionality to our online collections, and branch out into new forms of online professional development. Watch our social media channels for the latest, and we look forward to hearing from you.
This is a guest post by Camille Tolliver. Camille worked with the education team at the Library of Congress as part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship Program.
1. What is your background?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. This past May 2014, I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with my M.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Digital Communication.
2. How did you learn about the intern program and why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?
I found out about the Library of Congress intern program through the HACU National Internship Program. I wanted to intern with the Library of Congress because it was something that was different for me and I wanted to challenge myself. I didn’t know what to expect, but it definitely turned out to be a great experience.
3. How would you describe your internship?
Most interns take on an internship not knowing what to expect. At the Library, I am more than “just” an intern. I am currently interning in the Educational Outreach department where my opinions and my work are valued. My colleagues are very influential to me because they’re very knowledgeable and always helping me enhance my skills. I enjoy interning in the Educational Outreach department because they do not hesitate to challenge me and help me learn and grow professionally.
Being able to help with the Summer Teacher Institutes from start to finish was a great experience for me. Every week was very interesting. It was great to see how amazed the participants were when they were handed a primary source to analyze. I learned a lot from sitting and watching teachers put on their thinking caps and become students.
The impact that I noticed primary sources have on teachers is that it opens their mind to a new way of learning, teaching and getting their students involved. Oh how I wish my teachers used primary sources when I was in elementary, middle and high school!
4. What has amazed you the most about the Library?
I am most amazed by how passionate everyone is about what they do and how they are always willing to tell you about their department. There’s always an opportunity to learn something new.
5. What advice can you give future interns?
EXPLORE! Take advantage of the opportunities and resources within the Library. The Library has a lot of amazing collections and hosts a lot of amazing events. Lastly, remember, you are more than “just” an intern.
Summer is a perfect time to reflect on the school year gone by. This week, Danna Bell of the Library of Congress showcases one of her favorite posts from 2013-2014.
As my colleagues know, for the past year I have served as the president of the Society of American Archivists. At the organization’s upcoming conference one of my duties will be to give a plenary address that highlights a theme that is of importance to me and that connects to issues of importance to archivists. For my presidential address, I’ve decided to focus on the importance of knowing and sharing your story.
Since the beginning of my term, I have talked about the importance of story in our lives and of sharing your story–be it with family or friends or with those who can help protect and preserve archival collections. The primary sources found in archives provide a new avenue to share a story; a way that can engage and inspire. Kate DiCamillo, the current Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, chose the theme “Stories Connect Us” for her inaugural address and it resonated with me. So did Rebecca Newland’s post on using DiCamillo’s stories and primary sources to help draw students deeper into the story.Kate DiCamillo: Stories Connect Us January 14, 2014 by Cheryl Lederle
This post is by Rebecca Newland, the Library of Congress 2013-14 Teacher in Residence.
On Friday, January 10, 2013 the Library of Congress inaugurated Kate DiCamillo as the 2014-15 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. The role of the Ambassador is to raise “national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” DiCamillo, the fourth to hold this position, has chosen “Stories Connect Us” as her theme, saying “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other.”
This is a great time to feature DiCamillo’s work in classrooms and libraries. Pair the books with primary sources to help students connect to the world in the books. Display items near her work in the school or classroom library. Encourage discussions of the ways in which the primary sources might enhance or contrast with the characters or scenes that appear in the books.
To accompany the picture book Great Joy, compare the illustrations of the organ grinder with one or more of these photographs. If you are musical or can team with your school’s music teacher, consider a singalong with the musical score of “The Organ Grinder” and discuss the view of the life of an organ grinder as presented in the song.
If your students are a bit older and reading the Bink and Gollie series, take a look at this drawing or this photograph of the Andes Mountains while reading Bink and Gollie to give students a sense of place when the girls make their trek.
In Bink and Gollie: Two for One, the girls visit the state fair and see a fortune teller. These recent photographs bring a state fair into your classroom, illustrating the excitement of carnival rides and fair food for children who may never have had the opportunity to attend. Ask students who have visited a state fair to share their experiences with the class. This picture of a Louisiana State Fair fortune teller and this one of a fortune teller’s booth offer an old-fashioned view of this profession.
The Magician’s Elephant also involves a fortune teller, who may or may not resemble this fanciful portrayal by Lillian Russell. Ask students to draw their own version of a fortune teller based on the novel’s description or their own imaginings.
In The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Edward rides with transient men on the railroad. Young children may have no concept of hopping a rail car, or even of regular train travel, and photographs may help them visualize what these experiences might look like. This photograph shows both a man and a train to illustrate life on the trains, while this one shows two hobos who have been put off a train.
Try these ideas to take a closer look and draw students in deeper:
- As a class or in groups, look for details in the photos that correspond to the descriptive details in the book. Ask students to compare details in the text and illustrations to the details in the primary source photographs. How does viewing the photograph versus the illustration affect your understanding?
- Interested students may investigate topics they discover in the books, such as places visited, organ grinders, fortune tellers, or hobos and other transient populations.
- Use these or other images or maps as prompts for students to write their own stories.
What are your students’ favorite scenes from Kate DiCamillo’s stories? Let us know in the comments!
As the nation’s educators prepare for–or begin–the new school year, we welcome you to another year of the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog!
This blog supports teachers and school librarians as they teach with primary sources, particularly those from the rich online collections of the Library. Our posts cover a wide range of disciplines, spotlighting powerful items from the collections as well as sharing teaching strategies from our staff and many partners. Whether you’re focused on science, history, literature, civics, informational text, the Common Core State Standards, or inquiry, you’ll find helpful ideas and engaging conversation here.
Search our past posts to find topics of interest, or start with these popular posts:
- What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source?
- Look Again: Challenging Students to Develop Close Observation Skills
- Top Ten Tips for Facilitating an Effective Primary Source Analysis
Watch this space for our fall season of posts, and follow @TeachingLC on Twitter for up-to-the-minute teaching ideas and more primary sources.
In the meantime, let us know what you’d like to see covered in this blog!
Summer is a perfect time to reflect on the school year gone by. This week, Anne Savage of the Library of Congress showcases one of her favorite posts from 2013-2014.
I was fascinated with flip books as a child. It took a good bit of practice to flip the pages smoothly enough to “see” the motion, but when I did, it was a magical experience. Years later, a teacher asked us to create our own flip book, and suddenly I became aware of the flip side of flip books – the strangely-posed “in-between” images.
I love this blog post about Muybridge’s stop-action photography because it’s about technology, art, science….and the magic of in-between images. As the author writes: What can your students learn from the images that is not observable from the live action?Celebrating Edweard Muybridge: Documenting Movement and Creating Art April 17, 2014 by Danna Bell
Stop-action photography has become an integral part of our lives. It allows us to watch the beauty of a dancer, the grace of an athlete or the motion of an animal one frame at a time. It is hard to believe that until Edweard Muybridge began his study of animal locomotion with photography in the late 19th century, we were limited to only what the eye could see or what was in a single photograph. In celebration of Muybridge’s birthday, the Library of Congress has uploaded a number of Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion images from its collections into Flickr.
Colleagues in both the Prints and Photographs Division and the Science Division found plenty to write about this set, underscoring how it straddles science, technology, and art. In “Eadweard Muybridge: Birth of a Photographic Pioneer” Kristi Finefield noted how the camera recorded and revealed new insights about motion. “What the human eye could not capture at the time, Muybridge’s series of cameras, often operating on timers, could. And so, viewers of the late 19th century were able to see in a sequence of photos every step taken by a horse at full gallop, the sleek movements of a cat running and each flap of the wings of a bird in flight.” In “Animal Locomotion: From Antiquity to the 21st Century,” Jennifer Harbster traces the history of the study of animal locomotion. She suggests that “By studying nature and observing animal movement scientists can better understand biomechanics, physiology, evolution, physics, and engineering.” And so, we might add, can students!
Students can examine Muybridge’s work, including a few examples of zoopraxiscopes which helped to bring movement to still images. How can students use Muybridge’s photographs as part of science and artistic activities? Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask students to select one sequence of “Animal locomotion” images, perhaps a horse or a cat running, and compare the sequence to the experience watching the action. What can be learned from the images that is not observable from the live action?
- Direct students to one of Muybridge’s images of birds in motion. How might a sequence of a bird in flight have shaped the experiments of early aviators?
What do you teach, and where?
Even after thirty-three years as a teacher and librarian in Iowa, Germany, and Colorado, I must confess that I failed retirement! Through my work with the Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region program and the TPS Teachers Network, I have remained deeply involved in professional development. I also “teach” through Twitter and my Primary Source Librarian blog, seizing every opportunity to share Library of Congress primary sources and teaching ideas. Because so much of my work is online, my computer and I have become inseparable, but I still relish the occasional face-to-face teaching gig.
How do you use Library of Congress materials with your students or colleagues?
Lately I have been championing Library of Congress materials as a vehicle for helping students develop the skills to ask their own questions. I have long believed that student questioning is essential to creating lifelong learners. Transferring the power of the question to students requires a conscious change in school cultures – a real shift in practice – and one that primary sources support quite effectively.
Tell us about an item from the Library’s online collections that you love to show to students.
Like many teachers and students, I gravitate toward visual primary sources, but recently I’ve made an effort to identify short, teachable texts for a variety of reading levels. One of my all time favorite texts is a model 1857 “Dear John” letter from a dance manual with the impossibly long title of The lady’s guide to perfect gentility, in manners, dress, and conversation … also a useful instructor in letter writing, toilet preparations, fancy needlework, millinery, dressmaking, care of wardrobe, the hair, teeth, hands, lips, complexion, etc. I am also anxious to explore the new Clara Barton papers, particularly her diaries and journals from the American Civil War.
Describe an “Aha!” moment for you with teaching with primary sources.
I’ve had so many “Aha!” experiences over the years! In addition to countless student light bulb moments, I would say a slightly different “Aha!” moment came with the realization that the Library’s education staff is always ready and excited to help teachers and librarians everywhere. Not only can educators take advantage of TPS regional and partner workshops across the country, but they can also apply for the Library’s prestigious Summer Teacher Institute, access professional development modules online, follow the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog, subscribe to the @TeachingLC Twitter feed, use the Ask a Librarian service, and the list goes on! You are never alone when you discover the power of primary sources.
What would you most like to tell other your fellow educators about teaching with primary sources like these?
I would advise them to make primary sources a daily habit, both as learners and as teachers. Take that first step, and connect with others so you can learn together.