This post was written by Lesley Anderson, 2021-2022 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the Library of Congress.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have been a math and science teacher and instructional coach at the High Tech High schools in San Diego, California, for the past eight years. My passion for science and lifelong learning stems from my experiences as a teacher-researcher with NASA studying climate change, NOAA researching sea turtles, and PolarTREC exploring neutrinos at the South Pole.
How has using primary sources changed your teaching?
I value using primary sources with students in the science classroom because it helps to create multiple access points for students to engage in their learning. I’ll admit I didn’t initially see how primary sources would be relevant to the STEM classroom, but that was before I learned about the many different types of primary sources that the Library has to offer. After exploring various collections and seeing the diversity in topics and primary source formats, it is now difficult to imagine a primary source that does NOT connect to science!
Why did you apply for the Einstein Fellowship?
I stumbled across the Einstein Fellowship during my first year as a teacher but I needed five years of teaching experience before I could apply, so I put it on my teaching bucket list. Last school year, as I was prompting students to create their five year plans for their post-high school lives, a student asked what was on my five year plan, and I realized I had gotten so invested in the lives of my students, I had forgotten about my own goals as an educator. I applied immediately. Interviewing with the Library of Congress education team this spring, I was delighted to learn that their goals for STEM education align beautifully with my own thinking about student engagement and learning.
What are your goals for your year as the Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow?
I look forward to making more STEM teachers aware of the incredible resources available in the Library of Congress that can become engaging hooks for their students and create more authentic opportunities to invest in their learning. I hope to encourage more STEM teachers to use primary sources regularly in order to increase student access to complex scientific concepts. I also hope to push STEM teachers to see the Library as more than a resource for humanities teachers – there are amazing primary resources for all teachers, regardless of their subject.
What advice would you give to teachers who want to use primary sources in classroom activities given the push to meet standards and insure success on standardized tests?
Primary sources are the perfect way not only to pique students’ interest in a STEM topic, but also to provide an opportunity to engage with the science and engineering practices in order to solidify complex ideas. The Next Generation Science Standards ask our students to engage in argument from evidence or develop and use models and I cannot imagine a more authentic way to promote critical thinking and problem solving than to engage with primary sources.