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Archive for November, 2009

Tips to Enhance Students’ Research Experience

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

For many History Day students, research will entail a few trips to the school library and multiple trips to the Internet. But the school library only has so many books on World War II and women’s suffrage, and the Internet certainly has its limitations. Encouraging students (or enticing them with extra credit) to move beyond school walls and the allure of Google will not only improve their research experience and skills, but it will also help them create more well-rounded projects.

  • Conduct Interviews. Students who interview participants in historic events or experts on historical topics come away with a face-to-face connection to their topic. Try local community colleges, veterans’ groups or county historical societies for potential interviewees.
  • Visit Local Repositories. County historical societies often have gems within their resource collections, including war letters, scrapbooks, local newspapers, church records and immigration resources. The Minnesota Historical Society has links to several state organizations.
  • Take a Research Field Trip. Either as a class or individually, student research field trips can present excellent resources. Historic sites are fun and hands-on, but they can also be considered primary sources.
  • Visit a Large University Library. University libraries can be intimidating, but if you get in contact with the librarians beforehand, they can often have resources, programs or staff prepared to help students navigate the floors upon floors of resources.
  • Contact Long-Distance Repositories. If the resources a student needs are only available at a university or museum several states away, they might give up since they cannot travel to the repository itself. But students can contact the librarians or educators at that facility, and oftentimes negotiate interviews or photocopies of documents.
  • Access Business Archives. Organizations like Wells Fargo and Mayo Clinic often have archives that relate to their business activities, or have accessioned their documents to another respository.

Primary Resources Online

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Some of you may have students who are already thinking about primary sources for their History Day projects. But even if that step is far in the future for you and your students, it’s not a bad idea to start compiling a list of reliable websites where students can access some excellent primary sources. Of course, we always encourage students to get their hands on actual primary sources at libraries and archives, but the Internet is becoming a better and better resource for young researchers.

Here are a few sites that have some excellent primary sources available:

Library of Congress American Memory: Encourage your students to narrow the field as much as possible by choosing specific collections. The Teachers’ section of this website also has some excellent, subject-sorted sources.

National Archives History Day Resources: The Archives assembled some of their sources related to particular Innovation topics, as well as connections to other topics within the subject areas.

Harvard University Library Open Collections: Harvard has collected some intriguing sources based on four different topics — Women and Work, Immigration, Diseases and Epidemics, and Expeditions and Discoveries. Women Working is particularly helpful.

Yale Law School Avalon Project: The documents from Yale Law span several thousand years, although more are available in recent centuries. The topics are mainly law and diplomacy.

Famous Trials: A law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has assembled documents and context about more than 50 famous trials, from the Trial of Socrates to the Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.

American Journeys: This collection contains thousands of documents related to the exploration of America, from 1000 to 1844, including the journals of Lewis and Clark.

There are many more fantastic websites with extensive primary sources, but these are a few reliable sites with vast holdings. If you encounter others, feel free to pass along the tip!

History Day Hullabaloos

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Parents, as the holiday season is nearing we all know that the calendars book up pretty fast. I want to let you in on a few events that are held around the metro to help your students expand and improve their history day projects.

The Hennipen County Libraries have been a fabulous partner in encouraging research through visits to the their facilities. They are providing four opportunities throughout the winter to visit their libraries and receive personalized help with almost any aspect of a History Day project. Bring your students who are curious about narrowing their topics, developing a thesis, identifying primary sources, and using library materials.

History Day staff will also be on hand at the events so feel free to come and ask us the tough questions.  Below you can find the dates and locations of the Hullabaloos, so make sure to mark one of them on your winter calendar now!

Central Library - 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

Saturdays: Dec. 12th, Jan. 16th, Feb. 13th   11 AM - 3 PM

Ridgedale Library - 12601 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka

Tuesday: Jan. 12th  5:30 PM - 8:30 PM




Helping Students with Topic Selection

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Our theme workshop on October 19 turned into a great discussion about the 2010 theme, “Innovation in History: Impact and Change.” This is a theme with a lot of nuance, and the attending teachers and staff contributed some really interesting insights about the little quirks of “Innovation.” Here’s a list of some of key points to emerge from our workshop.

  • Students must consider an innovation’s time and place. If students wanted to study the innovation of peaceful protest, they would have to research back thousands of years to find the inception of that concept. Instead, they could study how a peaceful protester, such as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., used peaceful protest methods that were innovative for their particular time and place.
  • Invention and innovation are not interchangeable words. Many inventions go through several modifications before they achieve success, but the end result is not necessarily an innovation. Edison’s lightbulb was not an innovation; many others had created some form of that invention. Edison’s innovation, instead, was the system he helped create that made use of the lightbulb easier.
  • Not all innovations have a significant impact. Students must consider if an innovation significantly changed the way people lived or was a significant change to society. Women’s bloomers changed the way that women were able to function in society, but fashion innovations such as the mini-skirt or bellbottoms did not affect the same sort of significant change.
  • Non-invention innovations can often allow for greater depth of research. Instead of researching the invention of the camera, students could research the innovative ways that cameras were used in wartime. Governmental innovations, such as the Three-Fifths Compromise or the Homestead Act, are great examples, too.
  • Innovations do not have to have a “positive” impact. The Third Reich’s use of the Lebensborn program, which provided resources to women and families who had “Aryan” children, was very innovative, but had certain eugenics qualities about it.

When helping students choose topics, guide them through their interests and help them ask questions about time, place and significance. Students may settle on an invention, because they believe that is the only course, but you can help them choose more creative topics by exploring the world outside of the creation of a new piece of technology.