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Primary Sources in Science Classrooms: Revisiting Favorite Posts

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Talking with science teachers at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference last month reminded me that a couple of years ago the Library of Congress hosted a Teacher in Residence with a background in science, Trey Smith. During his time at the Library, Trey wrote a series of blog posts describing strategies for using digitized primary sources – such as newspapers, photographs, data charts, and maps – from the Library of Congress in science classrooms. The series,”Primary Sources in Science Classrooms…,” explores topics ranging from computer science and coding to concussions to legislation around lead paint poisoning.

The laying of the cable—John and Jonathan joining hands

Electric auto at re-charging station, 1919

Looking Back: Outstanding Blog Posts from Former Teacher in Residence Trey Smith highlights a few of these posts applying science and engineering practices to various topics, including invasive species, electric cars, and water quality.

Here are other favorites:

Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. Botanist, 1942

Plants, Photos from Tuskegee, and Planning Investigations

Scientific investigations with plants are a staple in elementary school classrooms. Young learners study plant structures and functions, what plants need to grow, how plants reproduce and pass on genetic information, and how matter and energy move in ecosystems. As they learn core scientific ideas, students should simultaneously engage in the practices of scientists. Historic photographs can serve as windows into planning and carrying out scientific investigations.”

Microbeads, Nanomaterials, and Federal Legislation

The Library of Congress is home to millions of historical primary sources, including documents related to the work of Congress. Teachers can explore, the official website for U.S. federal legislative information, and consider how federal legislation can launch science learning.”

Pollution haze hanging over the valley. Mary Hufford, 1995

Coal River and Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems

Individually and collectively humans exert both positive and negative influences on Earth’s systems. Teachers and students studying the interactions among Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere and related human activity can explore images, manuscripts, and recorded oral history interviews from the Coal River community in West Virginia.”

Severe Weather and Community Resilience.

Throughout human history, communities have contended with the consequences and costs of severe weather. Recent discourse about climate, sea levels, and weather events include both national and local-level conversations about building community resilience in response to severe weather. Primary sources can initiate deep learning about severe weather and community preparedness and responses.”

Let us know in the comments how you’ve incorporated primary sources into science instruction!

Comments (2)

  1. Very interesting. I think we tend to not think of using primary documents to teach science. I have passed this on to some science teachers.

  2. Thanks for amplifying our message, MaryJane!

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