This post is excerpted from a reflection submitted by Janine D’Elia, a science educator from Virginia, who participated in a 2023 summer teacher institute at the Library of Congress. She wrote about her experiences introducing colleagues to primary source analysis. It caught our attention because we had not seen the video she used before she pointed it out. We also noticed that the processes she describes from her work with colleagues can also be used to inspire student learning and research across disciplines.
Applications for the summer 2024 onsite institutes are open until February 16.
I found a video from 1946 called One World or None created by the National Committee on Atomic Information. The video begins with “Through the years, scientists all over the world have freely exchanged their knowledge.” This statement is an excellent example of the Nature of Science tenets that science teachers believe and teach their students. I used this video to engage [science department leaders] with the research question: How did the development of the atomic bomb illustrate the nature of science?
I paused the video and we talked through some of the imagery. They mentioned the flags representing the countries that contributed to the knowledge behind the development of the bomb, the imagery of the bomb hitting American cities, and the crosses representing the dead.
My goals were to ask:
- What claims are being made by the video?
- What is the evidence and arguments that support the video’s claims?
- Who is behind the information (source)?
- What was happening at the time of production?
- What is the purpose of the video?
- What do other sources say?
The teachers were interested in researching more about the National Committee on Atomic Information to see what came of the program and how it changed during the Cold War. We had an amazing conversation about how science is collaborative, communicative and dependent on social factors- as evidenced by the video.
While Janine posed the questions from a science perspective, other disciplines might also consider those questions. A history class might then pursue questions to establish historical context by researching what was happening at the time of the production. An English/Language Arts class might take a closer look at the persuasive techniques employed in the video. A media literacy lesson might evaluate the evidence presented to support the claims made. Students might explore first-hand accounts from the Veterans History project and compare the veterans’ experiences and perspectives to those of the National Committee on Atomic information.