This is a guest post by Alexis Alexander, an intern with the education team at the Library of Congress as part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship Program.
Amelia Earhart would have turned 121 years old on July 24, 2018. More than eighty years have passed since Earhart and her co-pilot, Fred Noonan, vanished during an attempt to fly around the world, and many still find her story fascinating and mysterious.
I collaborated with the Library’s Young Readers Center (YRC) to develop a primary source activity to commemorate Earhart’s accomplishments. I have an interest in children’s literature and was excited to create an activity that combined books on Earhart with primary sources. As a former college admissions advisor, creating this kind of activity was new territory for me, but I was ready to face the challenge and develop an activity to educate young learners about Amelia Earhart while also developing observation and critical thinking skills.
During my search of the Library of Congress online collections for primary sources that showed who Amelia Earhart was and what she meant to the world, I came across many attention-grabbing pieces, including a recording of a speech, and Amelia Earhart’s palm prints. My next task was to design a process to encourage young learners to “see, think, and wonder” about these primary sources.
To engage students, show the palm prints without identifying whose they are. Ask students to think about why the Library might save palm prints. What does that tell them about the person? What do they wonder about the person? Play a portion of the speech and tell students that the speaker is the same person. What surprises them about the recording?
Finally, show your young learners this 1932 image of Amelia Earhart standing with Mayor James Walker and tell them one of the people in the picture is the person with the palm prints and the recording. Ask them:
- Who do you think is the most important person in the picture? What makes you say that?
- Why do you think these people have gathered together?
Identify her as Amelia Earhart and tell students that a month before this picture was taken, she became the first woman to fly solo across the United States. What do they wonder about her? Read a book together to learn more!
What I enjoyed most about developing the activity was Amelia Earhart’s willingness to learn and explore, whether the subject was air travel, geography, math, or meteorology. Also, the fact that she was brave enough to step into a field dominated by males during the early 1920s and 30s intrigued me and might encourage students.
These ideas offer a starting point to help students learn about Amelia Earhart and her contribution to the field of aviation and to women’s history. How can you use primary sources to engage young learners and help them learn more about Amelia Earhart or other notable women?