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Commemorating the Great War with National Archives iPad app, resources, lesson plans

During the few hours that she has available between reading the Court of Thorns and Roses Series and finishing the Wii Zelda video game, my daughter spends a couple days a week as a volunteer intern at the National Archives Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene. She’s had the chance to organize a ton of donated primary sources, catalog teacher materials, and watched a general from Fort Riley’s 1st Infantry Division cut a cake in half with a sword.

So . . . she’s already having a better summer that most of us can hope for.

Today I got an email from her sharing a sweet new online tool that highlights some of NARA’s resources surrounding America’s entry into World War One. (NARA has so many different teacher tools available that it can be difficult keeping up with all of it. It’s nice having a member of the crack Eisenhower staff working on the inside to keep me up to date.) So I figured I’d pass on the NARA goodness.

The United States entered World War One on April 6, 1917. To honor the 100th anniversary, the National Archives created Commemorating the Great War, a WWI educator portal designed to help with the wealth of records and information documenting our experience in the conflict, including photographs, documents, audiovisual recordings, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events.

You’re going to want to set aside time for this. Seriously. Bookmark the site and plan on making several trips.

There are five main areas and a link to their newly designed iPad and Android app right at the top of the page. Start with the Educator Resources button that will take you to a WWI specific page on the powerful DocsTeach site. (DocsTeach supports high levels of historical thinking through the use of primary sources. You’ll want to be sure and explore the rest of the site when you’re done with WWI.)

I also love the link to NARA’s incredible Prologue online magazine. You’ll find 12 in-depth articles that dig deeper into a variety of WWI topics. Be sure to check out The Zimmerman Telegram, a great spy story perfect for hooking kids into the topic. (Like DocsTeach, don’t forget to bookmark Prologue’s Previous Issues. Tons of primary and secondary resources here to build your historical content knowledge.)

And if you and students are looking for some civic engagement activities, the NARA Tagging and Transcription is a great place to contribute to the archival process with both WWI documents and other topics.

Use the useful NARA Teaching with Documents site, The Emergence of Modern America, to find great WWI lesson plans. Then use the structure of those lessons to help you organize and design new lessons based on the huge pile of WWI primary documents organized by subject area on the Commemorating site:

Once you’ve had a chance to browse through some primary sources using NARA’s website resource, take some time to install and explore the recently launched Remembering WWI, an iPad and Android app that lets you and your student explore, collaborate, and engage with the Archives’ extensive collection of World War I moving and still images.

  • Using the archival content within the app, you can create your own collections and build and share new narratives around the people, events, and themes you’re exploring. Use these collections and other documents to enhance WWI lessons in your classroom.
  • The app provides an unprecedented collection of WWI content digitized and preserved as part of the larger Wartime Films Project, much of it never-before-seen by the public. This includes photographs and films originally shot by the US Signal Corps on behalf of various armed forces units during the 1914–1920 timeframe.
  • The National Archives have introduced new visually compelling ways of exploring this public domain material, such as creating thematic collections within app for the opportunity to better explore relevant WWI stories.

Thanks NARA and interns in Abilene. You’re the best.

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