Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Learning at the Library of Congress

I had the great privilege of being selected as a participant for the Library of Congress Primary Source Civil Rights Teacher Institute in Washington DC during the week of August 3-7.  It was an incredible opportunity to explore how to use primary sources such as photographs, maps and original manuscripts to develop questions and deepen student research.  The work ties in beautifully with our inquiry-based approach here in the Lower School.  I look forward to sharing what I learned with both my colleagues and students.

My expectation to be able to become a super-searcher of the Library of Congress holdings was dashed fairly quickly when I realized how vast the holdings are and that they are a bit quirky to search. Yet, the sense of vastness vanished when we luckily were introduced to the Rosa Parks collections. I found the humanity that surrounded these documents so rich and telling of history that my urge to “find everything” was quelled. I have learned that the human angle of the story is what spurs me to dig deeper. I then can find the pieces, the facts, the bits that surround that story (whether an event, a person, a group) and come to my own understanding of the story.

I was reaffirmed in my belief that history is told through both inclusion and exclusion. We can see what is included through the filtered trail of documents, but it is much harder to know what is left out. Our afternoon with the panel from the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute gave us pieces that have been left out, forgotten, sidestepped.

We also were able to delve into the current exhibition on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and discovered stories and images which can be powerfully used with our students to bring to life the people and events that brought us to today.

I would like to thank OES for supporting me professionally and helping me to be a part of this enriching learning experience.

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