Using a Watch Party to Spur Discussions on Race and Other Topics: Another Opportunity to Communicate with Students

This post is by Lee Ann Potter, the Director of the Learning and Innovation Office at the Library of Congress.

Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden

Earlier this summer, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch participated in a conversation titled “Cultural Institutions at Times of Social Unrest.”  The conversation was recorded and is available online from the Library.

A few days later, thanks to the excellent suggestion of a colleague, the Learning and Innovation Office—the people responsible for this blog—participated in a watch party.  During our lunchtime gathering, we first connected with each other on a webinar platform, muted ourselves, and turned off our video cameras.  Next, each of us began watching and listening to the recording of the Hayden/Bunch conversation in a separate window of our web browser.

As the conversation between the two cultural institution leaders progressed, so did ours as we typed in the chat box.

We reacted to what we heard. We posed questions of each other. We shared experiences.  We brainstormed ideas. We were engaged in a thoughtful discussion without saying a word.

As teachers continue to consider and practice approaches to online learning with students, and as professional development opportunities continue to take place in virtual spaces, we suspect many of you have or will have experiences with virtual watch parties along these lines.

We hope that program recordings from the Library—conversations with authors, topical discussions with scholars, research seminars, readings from poets laureate as well as other poets and prose writers, concerts, and more—might provide you, your students, and colleagues with many watch-worthy opportunities.  If you have used Library recordings in this way, we would love to hear about your experiences!

This strategy might work well with this year’s National Book festival recordings—for a complete list of the featured authors explore the list on the National Book Festival website.

A Teacher’s Memories of Congressman John Lewis

Rebecca Newland, a former Teacher in Residence and contributor to the Teachers Page blog and the Poetry and Literature Center blog reflects on her interactions with the late congressman John Lewis. She notes that by talking about Lewis and his work with young people, we can keep alive the spirit of compassion and non-violence he espoused.

Teaching Civic Ideals and the Writing Process using Primary Sources

The Rosa Parks Papers at the Library of Congress testify to her courage, humility, and depth. They also reflect how she inspired others. Evaluating those documents based on their historical context, word choice, and revisions can deepen students’ understanding of her life and impact on the civil rights movement.

Teaching Civic Ideals Using Primary Sources: Federalism and the Origin of Federal Air Pollution Policy 

Environmental case studies such as Donora, Pennsylvania, offer students the opportunity to evaluate the system of federalism in context of a historical event. In addition, this event may stretch students’ understanding of when and why society began to focus on the impact of air pollution on the environment.