Danna C. Bell 2014-02-12 14:22:20
My full-time job involves working with teachers to help them use primary sources to engage students, encourage critical thinking, and expand knowledge. The majority of my colleagues are teachers, so we spend a lot of time working on professional development materials and creating curricular materials teachers can use. It’s extremely rare for us to work with students, but members of my team helped create a program called LOC Box, which helps students learn about the Library of Congress using the Thomas Jefferson building as a primary source. The program helps students gain effective communication, observation, and critical thinking skills while also doing a variety of hands-on activities. The staff member who coordinates our office’s social media activities recently told us a teacher was live tweeting about his students participation in the LOC Box activity. The teacher included some wonderful images of his students. Our colleague was able to engage with the teacher through Twitter and eventually went over to the Jefferson building to spend some time with the class. Seeing the images of the students was wonderful, and reminded me of the importance of getting students to use archives and primary sources early in their academic careers. At the 2013 Joint Annual Meeting in New Orleans, I was honored to chair Session 702, “Opportunities for Archives and Archivists in the Changing Landscape of K–12 Public Education,” in which teachers spoke about their experiences using primary sources in the classroom and how having the opportunity to work with these sources often led to better grades and more positive interactions both in and outside of the classroom. One teacher put up a slide begging archivists to come into the schools and to find ways to interact with teachers and their students. You may be wondering why in the world you should consider working with the K–12 community. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards in much of the United States provides archivists with a huge opportunity to take center stage in the education of K–12 students. The Common Core State Standards mandate the use of primary sources in the classroom. And we as archivists have these resources. What can we do to support the K–12 community while also dealing with our own concerns about scarce resources? Here are some suggestions: 1. Learn more about the standards and how primary sources are used. Talk to teachers or school principals in your communities. See what they need for their classes and discuss how you can support their curricular needs. 2. Think about your collections and what materials you have to support teachers— and don’t just limit yourself to social studies. Teachers can use primary sources in math, science, English, and foreign language courses, to name a few. 3. Team up with a teacher and provide materials they can use in the classroom. Take the opportunity to introduce students to archival materials and issues of preserving and protecting these resources. 4. If you can’t go to the classroom, see if you can create duplicate materials that teachers can use in the classroom. You might create several packets, including several items that teachers could borrow from the library media specialist. Think about spending time with students in your communities. It may lead to unexpected advocacy and support for your repositories.
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