Sure. We’ve all been to the Library of Congress digital archives. We all use the super handy National Archives’ Teaching With Documents section that shares lesson plans explaining historical events through primary documents.
And who doesn’t already spend hours at the Smithsonian Learning Lab and their History Explorer? Google’s Art and Culture is another rabbit hole waiting to happen. Of course, we all love DocsTeach.
But there are so many other places to find online primary sources. So. So. Many.
So many that it’s sometimes easier to just stick to the old reliables. So today you get 24 digital primary sources archives that tell the stories of people and groups that we sometimes miss when we stick to the old reliables.
Because the stories our kids need to hear should include more than just the dead white guys we grew up with. Nothing wrong with old white guys (you’ll find some below and I happen to know a couple of really nice old white guys) but don’t be afraid to grow your list to include the experiences of all sorts of people who make up the American narrative. Read more
My daughter was able to spend some time last year in Washington DC waiting to start an internship at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. And she had a few days to act like a tourist – touring monuments, exploring great little eateries, and visiting museums that have remained open. One of her new faves is the Folger Shakespeare Library. And to be honest, it’s a site I haven’t spent a ton of time exploring until she started texting photos and links to it.
One of the most interesting images for me as a history nerd?
A photo of a botany book from 1672.
Written by a guy named William Hughes, the book focused on the “roots, shrubs, plants, fruit, trees, herbs Growing in the English Plantations in America.” Hughes, who apparently was also a pirate, added a separate “Discourse of The Cacao Nut Tree and the use of its Fruits with all of the ways of making Chocolate into Drink.”
So I’m hooked already. Old books. Chocolate. And piracy. How have I never heard of this place before now?
Here’s the point. We can sometimes get in a rut in our instruction. Textbooks. The occasional SHEG lesson plan. Some Library of Congress documents now and again. And a test. There always seems to be a test.
But we shouldn’t forget that Read more
Art is hard. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that sometimes I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s modern art that causes me trouble. Maybe I’m just too literal. The piece to the left hanging in Seattle’s art museum? I got nothing.
But with the help of an older sister and a daughter, both strong with the art force, I’ve gotten better at making sense of color, shape, perspective, of context and hidden messages. And with the help of a lot of bright people at places like the Smithsonian and Library of Congress, I’m also getting better at looking at art as a form of primary source information, as another way to understand place and time,
For the last few months, I’ve been highlighting the very cool way that teachers are using Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms to help students think about the Bill of Rights and contemporary issues. I love using interpretations of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere and Alonzo Chappel to talk about historical accuracy and encourage historical thinking. The National Portrait Gallery has been huge in showing me ways that we can use portraits such as the Lansdowne image of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart and John Brown in his US Army blanket by Ole Peter Hansen Balling. And who hasn’t used images such as John Gast’s American Progress to lead conversations about Manifest Destiny and the interactions between settlers and American Indians?
But I’m starting to believe even more in the power of artwork as story and primary source. So it’s always great to find another site and set of tools that help integrate art into instruction and learning. I recently ran across SmartHistory and am loving it.
Smarthistory believes that: Read more
The video game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag came about five years ago. And as an avid fan of Assassin’s Creed, my son and his friends were some of the first in line to purchase it. And play it.
If you’re not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed line of video games, they’re basically an action adventure featuring a centuries old struggle between two groups of people – the Assassins, who fight for peace and free will, against the Templars, who believe peace comes through control of humanity. There’s fighting, walking around, some fighting, sneaking around, more fighting, some running, and then some more fighting. Fairly typical video game.
The thing that makes the series a little different than many other action adventure or first person shooter games, is the creators of Assassin’s Creed have been very deliberate about mixing the historical fiction of Assassins vs. Templars with real-world historical events and figures. In Assassin’s Creed III, for example, the setting is the American colonies before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. And there’s a cut scene depicting a version of the Boston Massacre that does a great job of creating the sense of place around that event, perfect for creating a idea of what that event might have looked like and the ambiguity around how the event transpired.
My son experienced the same sort of historical involvement when he was playing Black Flag. Set in the 18th century Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy, Black Flag obviously was telling a fictional story. But to be successful in that story, players need to know a lot about what life was like during that period and in that place. I asked him later about his experience: Read more
It’s always fun having my kids around during the summer. We chat about books, take short trips, discuss politics, argue about gardening techniques, and they make fun of my love for the Kansas City Royals.
The youngest one heads back to school in Minnesota in a few weeks. She’s been busy this summer selling snow cones and working in the local library. And . . . wait for it . . .
. . . she’s also spent two days a week as an National Archives unpaid intern at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene. How cool is that? The other day, she got the one on one backstage pass tour of stored artifacts. She knows I love the golf so she made sure to share how, among other things, she held Dwight’s Augusta National member’s green jacket. And his favorite golf hat.
You know. Just rubbing my nose in it.
But she’s also come home excited about Read more
Have you ever had one of those days / weeks / months? I feel ya.
Back in the day, summer was one of the slower times of the year at ESSDACK mission control. But over the last few years, for a variety of reasons, June through the end of August has become a very exciting time. Lots of extended learning opportunities that we facilitate, travel to places outside member school districts, and our own very cool Podstock tech conference.
But I’ve been missing History Tech. It’s nice to be back. And what better way to get back home than to talk up one of my favorite online places. Read more