National Archives Puts Power of Primary Source History in Hands of Teachers

Washington, D.C…. Fifty-four teachers from 15 states and three countries expanded their own pedagogical horizons this summer by participating in a unique workshop. They were this year’s participants in the National Archives’ highly acclaimed Primarily Teaching Institute, which provides in-depth training on using primary sources for classroom teaching. The training has become more accessible to more teachers in recent years thanks to a scholarship program of the Foundation for the National Archives that was underwritten again this year by a $20,000 gift from Texas Instruments.
Primarily Teaching connects educators to primary source records for lessons that enhance children’s understanding of our country’s history, society and culture,” said Paula Collins, vice president of governmental affairs for Texas Instruments. “We are pleased to continue our support for this time-tested training institute. It is one of the many ways we partner with the Foundation for the National Archives and other organizations to make valuable resources available to teachers and educators.”
Acting Archivist of the United States Adrienne Thomas said, “Primarily Teaching is a signature initiative of the National Archives. It has benefitted scores of educators throughout the country in the 30 years we have offered the program. The scholarships from the Foundation for the National Archives, funded by Texas Instruments, are helping another generation of teachers participate in this award-winning program.”
Primarily Teaching was developed by agency education specialists to give teachers access to the rich resources of the National Archives and to demonstrate how these materials can be used in the classroom. Participants learn how to conduct archival research, develop lessons based on primary sources, and present the records in ways that sharpen students’ skills and their enthusiasm for history, government, and other subjects.
With the support of the Foundation for the National Archives, more Primarily Teaching workshops were presented this summer in more locations across the nation. Nine workshops were offered at Presidential Libraries, the National Archives regional facilities, and the original site at the National Archives building in Washington D.C. Teachers attended sessions at: the Southwest Region in Fort Worth, Texas; the Great Lakes Region in Chicago, Illinois; the National Archives at Kansas City, Missouri; the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas; the Rocky Mountain Region in Denver, Colorado; the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas; the Northeast Region in Waltham, Massachusetts; and the Pacific Alaska Region in Seattle, Washington.
This year’s participants chose to explore such topics as school desegregation, the Works Progress Administration, child labor, and the creation of the National Park Service.
Woody Latham, a social studies teacher at Gateway Academy in Houston, is creating a lesson plan about immigration from materials he gathered at the session held at the National Archives Southwest Region in Fort Worth, Texas. He said, “After the workshop my eyes were opened to the benefit of using primary source materials in the classroom. It will help students become historians themselves. Rather than be passive learners they can take an active role by making inferences from the documents and analyzing them. The kids will eat this up.”
History teacher Sam Reeves of DeKalb High School in DeKalb, Texas, thought the workshop at the National Archives Southwest Region in Fort Worth was “fantastic.” During the workshop, he researched the school integration attempt at Mansfield High School near Fort Worth that took place one year prior to the Little Rock crisis. The episode was the first example of a defiant response to a federal court order to integrate and is chronicled in the federal court materials at the archives regional center. In the spring he plans to introduce his students to the story, present copies of the trial documents, and set up a mock trial.  
“The Primarily Teaching program developed by the National Archives provides teachers with the tools they need to help connect their students to original documents that help tell the stories of our nation,” said Foundation for the National Archives Chairman and President Ken Lore. “As students experience the new interactive lessons, they will discover history from a new perspective and see and hear voices and viewpoints not available in traditional history textbooks. The lessons and the format help students draw their own conclusions from some of the millions of letters, photographs, and other source documents left behind. I applaud Texas Instruments for their support in helping to make this wonderful resource available to so teachers throughout the nation.”

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at