This post is by Kendall Deese, an undergraduate student at American University and a 2018 Library of Congress Junior Fellow.
In my time at the Library of Congress as a Junior Fellow, I have learned so much from many different people. The Junior Fellows program selected 40 undergraduate, graduate, and students who have recently graduated and placed us in 33 different offices around the Library, working on different projects in the divisions. Being placed in the Library’s Educational Outreach office was incredible because I was able to learn from a unique set of educators.
At the beginning, I worked hard to understand the different roles that everyone had in the office. Whether it was working on projects related to Hamilton or baseball history, or answering questions that were submitted online, everyone was doing something different. Not only does the Educational Outreach team publish and maintain the Teachers page on the Library’s Web site, they also offer five week-long Summer Teacher Institutes, which bring in 25-30 teachers from around the country (and the world!) each week to learn how to effectively use primary sources in their classrooms.
During one of the teacher institutes that I was fortunate enough to witness, the teachers were each given one piece of a primary source and had to become the “expert” on it. What they didn’t know, though, was that, in each group of about eight participants, the primary sources would fit together and become a larger primary source. That was very interesting to me, because the teachers had unique perspectives on their own pieces, but when they brought them together, they formed a whole new primary source and started a new round of discussion.
The Teachers page includes links to classroom materials, professional development resources, and blog posts to help teachers use select items from the Library’s collections to engage students and spark learning. My job this summer has focused on primary source sets, a type of classroom material. Primary source sets range from topics like Thanksgiving, to Abraham Lincoln, to the NAACP, and so many more. I was assigned the topic of the history of baseball. The baseball primary source set was published a few years ago, so my job was to switch out most of the primary sources, and update the set.
I spent the ensuing weeks finding many different primary sources that I found to be interesting. But I also had to think about whether they would be complex enough for a classroom discussion around something other than baseball. Could teachers bring in these sources while talking about internment camps, or use them to start a discussion about how women were able to play baseball before they were given the right to vote?
In my next blog post, I will go more in depth about the sources I found as I searched through pictures, newspapers, and other primary sources in the Library’s collections.
I hope you’re planning a career in education, directly in the classroom or at great educational centers like LOC. We need more knowledgeable educators like you who are always thinking, “How much will this source take students into deeper thinking?”
I find this interesting and have always been in need of more information about how our government gathers and uses information. Primary sources and deeper thinking is what brings about change in one’s self and possibly the community at large