The Record - May 1998

Editor's Column

Cool Documents

Lee Ann Potter, Education Specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration, recently received this letter from a student named Dan Escapa who had used the Digital Classroom: "I wanted to say I enjoyed the info about the Zimmermann Telegram. It was very informative. I had never heard of it, but in American History we are just starting the Spanish-American war. I think what you are doing with the Digital Classroom is very good, plus scanning parts of your LARGE information pool is very cool. Nice job. Dan."

Cool. This issue of The Record has several articles demonstrating the wide variety of educational experiences that NARA is making available in Washington, DC and across the country in regional archives facilities and presidential libraries. Education specialists and volunteers offer various in-service programs for school districts and training for teachers in using documents in the classroom. They are making available educational materials online, publishing various educational document resources, and giving tours of museum exhibits.

Fifth grade students at Beltsville Academic Center

Fifth grade students at Beltsville Academic Center, Beltsville, Maryland, study African-American history materials from the National Archives presented by NARA volunteer Rennie Quible.

Sheldon Stern, director of the American History Project for High School Students at the Kennedy Library shows how documentary materials can challenge interpretation and fire the imagination. Richard Hunt of NARA's Center for Legislative Archives writes about the new teaching resource, Our Mothers Before Us, which makes available to students copies of original documents highlighting the critical role women played in various historical movements. Marcus Douglas, an eighth grade student from Somerville, Texas, said, "I think it will be a good addition to what we already know about women. It will help the women have full equality with men—to show that they can do just as much stuff as we can."

The Hoover Library has created exhibits and an online teaching resource that stimulated this response from a girl named Melissa who took time to write after visiting the Library: "Thank you for letting us have a field trip at your museum. I thought everything was interesting. I really enjoyed the movie. I have never learned so much about a person in a day. Your displays are so interesting. I thought the one with him fishing was beautiful. The original stuff was so neat."

Neat. Educators across the country have different opinions on teaching strategies and approaches. As far as American history, there seems to be no division of opinion. On this issue, at least, we have reached common ground. It is clear that students exposed to original source material become much more directly involved, more stimulated to explore new directions, more equipped to see the many nuances of events, and better able to reach independent conclusions. And that is, indeed, neat and cool.

Roger A. Bruns