Upcoming Events for Educators at the National Archives at New York City

The National Archives at New York City’s Learning Center is hosting two educational events next week for New York City area educators.

National Archives at New York City Learning Center

National Archives at New York City Learning Center

On Thursday, October 15th starting at 4:00 pm, the National Archives is hosting an Educator’s Open House.  Teachers will have an opportunity to explore our Learning Center, find out about student field trips and teacher professional development, and take home facsimile copies of primary source documents.  Teachers will also learn about our online education resources, including DocsTeach.org and our Congress Creates the Bill of Rights App.

In addition, in support of the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, historian Carol Berkin will give a short talk about her new book The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties. The first 40 teachers to arrive will receive a free copy of the book! Light refreshments will be served.

For more information or to register for the Educator Open House, email newyork.archives@nara.gov


On Saturday, October 17th starting at 10:00 am, the National Archives at New York City will host the 6th Annual K-12 Archives Education Institute.  This annual event, part of New York Archives Week, brings together educators and archivists from around New York City around a particular theme.  This year’s theme is Women’s History!

Educators and archivists from all five boroughs will explore the theme through documents, photographs, costumes, ephemera, digitized materials and other sources that address Women’s History!

This program is a collaborative partnership between the Archivist Round Table of Metropolitan New York, the United Federation of Teachers/Association of the Teachers of Social Studies, and the National Archives at New York City.  A light breakfast and lunch will be provided.

For more information about the program, visit the Archivist Round Table AEI page at http://www.nycarchivists.org/aei.   To register for the program, fill out the 2015 K-12 Archives Education Institute Application.


The National Archives at New York City’s Learning Center is locating on the 3rd Floor of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan. For more information, including directions, visit www.archives.gov/nyc.

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Upcoming Webinar! Quickly add Native American materials to your existing curriculum.

Join us Thursday, 10/15, from 8–9pm ET or Saturday, 10/24, from 11am–12 noon ET.

One-hour professional development certificate will be available upon request.
Register for the webinar 

Do you need to learn about ways in which to incorporate Native American and other ethnic materials into your Social Studies, History, or Language Arts curriculum?  This month we are here to help!  We will quickly review what might take you many hours to peruse on your own!

Image Source

We will be looking closely at two National Archives’ chapters in the new Honoring Tribal Legacies Handbook and Sample Curriculum, Primary Sources for American Indian Research and Exploring Your Own Community (an Intermediate unit plan).  Each of these chapters focuses on the inclusion of Native and non-Native  primary sources from a variety of stakeholders, including the learner him/herself, and can be adapted to any age group.

Beyond these chapters, the two-volume Handbook, produced by the National Park Service/ University of Oregon (2015), is filled with information about approaches to such topics as honoring the past, looking for Native place-names, and connecting with your local Native community.  In addition, sound educational principles are employed including placing the learner’s experiences first, connecting students with their natural, historic, and cultural surroundings in diverse and adaptable ways, connecting with the whole learner regardless of culture, incorporating Common Core and other standards, and alternative approaches to assessment.  We will be looking at a few of these as well.

The 7 sample curriculum units included in the online package all relate to the Lewis and Clark Expedition in some way. Each holds a series of complete lesson plans designed for preschool (Discovering Your Relationship with Water by Dr. Rose Honey), elementary (Honoring Tribal Legacies in Telling the Lewis and Clark Story by Dr. Ella Inglebret), intermediate grades (A Thousand Celilos by Shana Brown, MA and Exploring Your Own Community by Carol Buswell, MA),   secondary (The Journey by Dr. Julie Cajune and Living Within the Four Base Tipi Poles of the Apsalooka Homeland by Dr. Shane Doyle), and Post Secondary (Tribal Legacies of Pathfinding by Dr. Carmelita Lamb).


To look at the complete Handbook and Sample Curriculum in advance, see the Honoring Tribal Legacies website.

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Bringing Archives Sleepover Activities to the Classroom

This summer we welcomed children ages 8-12 and their accompanying adult to our History, Heroes, and Treasures sleepover at the National Archives in Washington, DC.  Our guests not only slept in the museum with our nation’s founding documents, but also took part in a range of fun and educational activities related to exploration.

One of our sleepover guests writing a letter to President Obama.

One of our sleepover guests writes a letter to President Obama.

While some elements of these activities are unique to the National Archives—such as the costumed interpreters and the activities facilitated by our special guests—many of the games can be adapted to the classroom setting.

One such activity is writing a letter to the President. This always-popular station at the sleepover is a personal favorite of Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, head of the National Archives. He wrote several letters to Presidents as a child—and we have the proof!

This is one of many letters Archivist of the United States David Ferriero wrote to the president as a boy. Letter from David Ferriero to President Eisenhower, 3/10/1960. From the Collection DDE-WHCF: White House Central Files (Eisenhower Administration).

This is one of many letters Archivist of the United States David Ferriero wrote to the President as a boy.
Letter from David Ferriero to President Eisenhower, 3/10/1960. From the Collection DDE-WHCF: White House Central Files (Eisenhower Administration).

Depending on the age of your students, writing to the President can lead to a discussion on important leadership qualities and issues, or current events topics that the students are passionate about.  It also encourages a conversation on civic responsibility and how citizens can be leaders.

To make the letter writing more exciting for young students, try using colorful stationary or have your students include a drawing.  Reminding students that the letters they write might end up in the National Archives helps too!

Another activity that our overnight guests participated in was “What do Explorers Eat?”  This game is paired with historical documents in the holdings of the National Archives to give players an understanding of the provisions explorers bring on their journeys.  We talked about: astronauts, underwater archaeologists, arctic explorers, and those on the famous Lewis and Clark mission.

Rotunda Sleepover

A sleepover guest and National Archives intern decide which explorer would pack these food items for their journey.

The goal of the activity is for participants to correctly identify each of the foods with the different exploration groups.  It is a good way to teach students about packaging and food storage in earlier time periods, and what life was like on these explorations. You can gather up foods that explorers would eat, or simply provide a list:

  • Astronauts in space need food that will not crumble and get into the air filtration system.  Their food is often in single serving vacuum sealed packets to help them keep track of what they consume.
  • Polar explorers need food that is fully cooked, and can be warmed over fire.  A tin of tea or canned vegetables are easy items to use.
  • Lewis and Clark expedition explorers needed food that would last when packaged in paper or jars.  Some examples are blocks of tea, beef jerky, and dried fruit.
  • Underwater archaeologist supplies would be the easiest to find, as what they eat can be prepared and eaten on board a ship—they aren’t eating underwater!  Try using boxes of cereal, juices, and snack crackers.
Underwater archaeologist Blair Atcheson onstage with costumed interpreters Meriwether Lewis and Sally Ride.

Underwater archaeologist Blair Atcheson onstage with costumed interpreters Meriwether Lewis and Sally Ride

Lastly, while schools can’t always hire interpreters or special guests to come to the classroom and talk about their expeditions, students can do their own interpreting by completing and presenting a final project on a famous explorer.  Students can choose which explorer or leader to research and at the end of their project, present their research to the class as the person they studied.

This activity can help students learn more about their explorer’s era in relation to clothes and language, and then on a more academic level, strengthen their researching skills, and provide a more comfortable and fun avenue of public speaking.

These activities from the National Archives sleepover are fun and engaging for adults and kids alike—and can be just as fun in the classroom!

Today’s post came from Alison Pigott and Holly Chisholm, who interned at the National Archives this summer.

History, Heroes & Treasures was made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the support of John Hancock Financial, Susan Gage Caterers, American Heritage™ Chocolate, and The Coca-Cola Company.

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An Updated DocsTeach is Coming Your Way

National Archives Building Being Constructed

Photograph of Construction on the National Archives Building, available on DocsTeach (National Archives Identifier 7368457)

We’re excited to announce that we’ve begun an overhaul of DocsTeach.org, our popular online tool for teaching with documents.

Look for our updated site in the new year!

We launched DocsTeach five years ago. Since then, during more than 10 million visits to our pages from around the world, students have learned about the past through primary sources; and educators have discovered documents, explored online activities, and created learning activities.

And after delivering thousands of presentations about the DocsTeach website — for thousands of educators at conferences, in professional development workshops, and online — there is a short list of questions with which we’ve become familiar. It only made sense to use these as a guide to inform the major updates we plan to make (along with some other improvements too!).

Does DocsTeach work on my iPad, tablet, or other mobile device?

We’re building the new DocsTeach so that the site works on any mobile device, as well as on the computer. Our DocsTeach App for iPad, launched in 2012, enables teachers to share learning activities from DocsTeach.org with students to access on their iPads; but this change will enable you to find primary sources and create activities from your iPad too.

Can I find teaching activities by grade level?

In addition to finding activities by era, historical thinking skill, and activity type, we’re planning to add a filter for grade level. So you’ll be able to find a great activity for middle school students who are studying the legislative process, for example, more easily.

Can I organize my favorite primary sources into folders? What about my favorite activities?

In the new version, we want members (those who have registered for a— still free! — DocsTeach account) to be able to select primary sources as favorites and organize them within their accounts. The ability to organize and share goes for online activities too.

Do you transcribe the primary source documents on DocsTeach?

We’ll include transcriptions for primary sources on the updated site, adding them on an ongoing basis.

Partial Transcript of Kansas-Nebraska Act

Partial Transcript of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the national struggle over slavery in the western territories. See the act on DocsTeach at http://docsteach.org/documents/1501722/detail

Do audio and video files play right in the activity?

We’re planning to embed videos and audio files on the site so you and your students don’t have to go to any other website or download any media files. This will be especially useful if you’re using DocsTeach on a mobile device.

Is there an easy way to save and print primary sources?

We’re working to make this even easier, with one-click downloading.

Can I include primary sources from places other than the National Archives in an activity I’m making?

We’re going to build flexibility into the new site so that you’re not restricted to National Archives-only content. Your local historical society, or even your grandmother’s scrapbook, probably has some great material!

Can I add primary sources that I find while browsing the site to activities to work on later?

We’re planning to add this feature so that you can continue seamlessly browsing through primary source documents while adding them to one or more activities.

How do I know the copyright status of the primary sources on DocsTeach? And how do I — and my students — cite documents?

Our updated site will include a rights statement and citation for every primary source document.

We’re hard at work updating the site and look forward to sharing more of it with you in the coming months!

This resource is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the support of Texas Instruments, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and Capital One.

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“New Online Education Materials: The Bill of Rights” Webinar


Join us next Saturday, October 3rd, 2015, from 11:00 a.m. to noon, Eastern Time. Class size is limited. Register here or go to our Professional Development Webinar Page to see other upcoming webinars.

Photograph of a Check List for Preservation of the Bill of Rights

Photograph of a Check List for Preservation of the Bill of Rights, December 3, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167942)

Take a look at our vast collection of online education materials, lessons, activities, and documents about the Bill of Rights. And learn a little about what is coming for the 225th anniversary in 2016.

A National Archives certificate of Professional Development (1 clock hour) is available.

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Educators’ Open House in DC on 9/24

For those of you in the DC area, please join us at our open house this Thursday, September 24, from 5:30–7:30 pm at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C.

Come spend the evening and find out more about what we offer for you and your classroom!

Registration is suggested. Please bring your colleagues along!

Open House Flyer

Download the 2015 Open House Invitation

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Constitutional Scavenger Hunt with Political Cartoons Lesson Engages Students

Today’s post comes from Emily Worland, an intern with the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and an AP U.S. Government & Politics teacher at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas to celebrate Constitution Day on September 17.


Anyone Home? by Clifford K. Berryman, February 24, 1920; U.S. Senate Collection; NAID 60115

A critical understanding of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution is vital to the success of U.S. Government, Civics, and U.S. History students both in the classroom and as maturing citizens, but how can we, as teachers, engage students with the document? In my classroom, I’ve tried telling anecdotal stories to accompany the major provisions, highlighting Supreme Court case interpretations, and have even tried asking students to ‘translate’ the document. But no methods seem engaging enough.

The Center for Legislative Archive’s new lesson, Constitution Scavenger Hunt with Political Cartoons, puts an end to this struggle. Drawing on the tremendous collection of nearly 2,400 pen-and-ink drawings by cartoonists Clifford and Jim Berryman, this lesson guides students to an understanding of how the provisions of the U.S. Constitution are visually represented in popular media.


The Next Time It May be Final by Clifford K. Berryman, July 14, 1946; U.S. Senate Collection; NAID 60123

In the lesson, students will analyze 16 political cartoons drawn during the early-to mid-20th century and assign each to a provision in the U.S. Constitution. Students will search through the Constitution and associate each cartoon with a specific clause. Through networking, students will analyze all 16 cartoons and read the entire Constitution as they learn about its outline, structure, and content.

While the cartoons depict the events of the late 19th and early 20th century, the provisions of the Constitution provide students with an anchor in which to assign each cartoon regardless of historical context, making the cartoon universal. Beginning a U.S. Government course with this activity will not only enhance student knowledge of the Constitution, but allow them to build confidence in cartoon analysis which enhances social studies skills based on understanding, applying, analyzing, and evaluating.

I really look forward to using this lesson with my AP U.S. Government and on-level students in the first unit of the course to establish a concrete understanding of the Constitution and begin a practice of using current political cartoons to analyze the workings of American politics.

To read the full instructions for the lesson and download the material for your classroom, visit Lesson Plan: Constitutional Scavenger Hunt with Political Cartoons.

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A Game Board Patent

Today’s spotlight document comes in the form of a printed patent drawing.  This illustration was part of a 1904 application for an improved game board.

Gameboard Patent

Drawing for a Game Board, 1/5/1904. From the Records of the Patent and Trademark Office. National Archives Identifier: 595519

Lizzie J. Magie, a citizen of Brentwood, Maryland, submitted this familiar-looking game design as a way to demonstrate economist Henry George’s concept of a single-tax, which was a popular idea being proposed for use in the United States.  Dubbed the Landlord’s Game, the ultimate object of the game is to become the wealthiest player while accumulating as much money as possible.

And why is this so familiar?

In 1935 a game based off of Magie’s board design was patented: Monopoly.

We use it to teach about the Constitution at Work, since Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that “The Congress shall have Power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

This document is just one of many records from the Patent and Trademark Office we hold at the National Archives available for use on DocsTeach.

Today’s post came from former social media intern Holly Chisholm.

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Funding for Exploration

The famous Lewis and Clark expedition is a story of American pioneering.  This first major journey of exploration led the way for vast wilderness to eventually become the “settled” West.  Today’s spotlight document focuses on the very start of this expedition, when in 1803 President Thomas Jefferson sent this confidential letter to Congress.

For “the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States,” and “that [Congress] should incidentally advance the geographic knowledge of our own continent…” First page of the President Thomas Jefferson Confidential Message to Congress Concerning Relations with the Indians, 1/18/1803. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. National Archives Identifier: 306698

First page of the President Thomas Jefferson Confidential Message to Congress Concerning Relations with the Indians, 1/18/1803. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.
National Archives Identifier: 306698

Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, President Jefferson secretly wrote to Congress requesting $2,500 to send “an intelligent officer, with ten or twelve chosen men” on a mission westward.  The primary goal for what would become the 8,000 mile Lewis and Clark expedition was to seek out trade routes—all the way to the Pacific Ocean—and begin relations with the tribes of Native Americans in the West.

Secondly, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were to report back on the scientific and economic resources beyond the Mississippi River; geography, zoology, botany, and climate are just some of the subjects covered in the expedition journals and sketches.

Financial backing was the first step to taking such an extensive journey, and so President Jefferson wrapped his grand vision of western discovery in the modest aim of promoting commerce.  Congress agreed to provide the expedition’s funding, and in the end, Lewis and Clark were well prepared.  While luxuries of tobacco and whiskey did not last the entire journey, rifles were never empty of powder, and all of the expedition’s findings were able to be recorded with ink and paper.

This letter and other documents about the exploration are available online on DocsTeach.

Today’s post came from former social media intern Holly Chisholm.

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You’re Invited to Our Educators’ Open House

Open House Flyer Download the 2015 Open House Invitation

Announcing our second annual open houseCome — and bring your colleagues — for an evening filled with resources and ideas for you and your students.

Thursday, September 24, 2015
5:30-7:30 pm
National Archives Museum, Washington, D.C.
Registration suggested.

Our education specialists will be on hand all evening to answer questions, chat, and share information about National Archives teaching resources. In addition, we will conduct several short demonstrations of our online and distance learning opportunities, DocsTeach.org — our online tool for teaching with documents, professional development opportunities, and more.

Following are some of the subjects and resources we will share.

Educators are welcome to visit our exhibits, including Records of Rights, Spirited Republic, The Public Vaults and the Rotunda, which holds the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Light refreshments will be served.

Please share this invitation with your colleagues!

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