Using Primary Sources to Analyze the 2015 AP U.S. Government FRQ: Civil Rights & Liberties

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.

July 6th and 7th are upon us and we finally get to see the fruits of our collective labor—how did our students do on the 2015 AP U.S. Government & Politics exam?

I can recall the concern my students had for the Free-Response Questions (FRQ) when the prompts were revealed online. Question 4 seemed like a constitutional law prompt from an L1 course! The question required a far more nuanced and in-depth analysis of the 14th Amendment then I have ever previously seen on an exam.

14th Am, RG 11, 07536_2002_001_PR

Joint Resolution Proposing the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, June 13, 1866; General Records of the U.S. Government. NAID 1408913

While many believe teachers’ summers are filled with endless pajama days, we know that we spend much time looking to the next school year and strategizing how we can better prepare our students through improved lessons and the construction of better materials. Through my summer internship at the Center for Legislative Archives, I have unparalleled access to primary source documents at the National Archives. Let me walk you through how we can use primary sources to work through 2015’s FRQ 4 —5s for everyone!

Every FRQ begins with a statement of fact that students should use to answer each part of the question. 2015’s FRQ 4 began, “The 14th Amendment protects civil rights and civil liberties.”

Part A asked students to discern between civil liberties and civil rights. This is certainly analytical because in colloquial speech we tend to use the terms interchangeably. I tell my students that civil rights is the verb and civil liberties is the noun—government action versus given freedom. Civil liberties are the freedoms guaranteed to us through natural rights, the Bill of Rights, and laws and regulations of government. They are the freedoms that belong to us; the freedoms we possess. For example, when accused of a crime, everyone is entitled to a speedy and public trial via the 6th Amendment. Civil rights are the actions that governments take to ensure our civil liberties are protected. When governments define, ensure, and protect American civil liberties, they are engaging in an act of civil rights. To say that the 1960s saw a “civil rights” movement is to say that people were seeking action from the government to define and protect civil liberties.

After defining this subtle difference, Part B asks students to identify the passage within the 14th Amendment that extends civil rights—the Equal Protection clause. By ensuring the equal protection of the law, the Constitution defined civil liberties as belonging to all. And the creation of this definition is a civil rights action. Our students have certainly earned their college credit in answering this law school-esque question!

Next, the students must take this a step further and apply this Equal Protection clause in Part C. First, how did a specific legislative act extend civil rights to women and persons with disabilities? In thinking of pieces of legislation our students would need to know for other parts of the exam or may remember from AP U.S. History, I selected the following acts in which Congress has prohibited a government action that would lead to a curtailment of civil liberties for women or persons with disabilities while ensuring that they are treated equally under the law.

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Congress has taken an action to ensure that women can participate in all education programs to the same extent their male counterparts are able.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says, ‘It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to otherwise to discriminate against any individual… because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.’ Similar to Title IX, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from making both hiring and firing decisions based on gender.
  • The 19th Amendment extends suffrage—a basic civil liberty in saying, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
  • For persons with disabilities, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a prime example of a legislative extension of civil rights. It states that, “No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” While rather overarching, this particular piece on employment ensures that guaranteed freedoms are not curtailed due to physical or mental disability.

Once the students know the difference between civil rights and liberties and we have applied civil rights through the 14th Amendment and legislative action, then we must do the same with civil liberties.

Part D requires that students identify the passage within the 14th Amendment that extends civil liberties. The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees that the protections for the accused, as outlined in the Bill of Rights (Amendments 4-8), are extended to the states. This extension of rights to the states from the Federal Government is referred to as incorporation. Our civil liberties of “life, liberty, or property” will not and cannot be “deprived” without “due process of law” at all levels of government within our federalism system.

Petition for a Writ of Certiorari from Clarence Gideon to the Supreme Court of the United States, January 5, 1962, Records of the Supreme Court of the United States. NAID 597554.

Petition for a Writ of Certiorari from Clarence Gideon to the Supreme Court of the United States, January 5, 1962, Records of the Supreme Court of the United States. NAID 597554.

Finally, in Part E students must identify the incorporation of civil liberties through the precedents of three specific Supreme Court cases:

    • Gideon v. Wainwright (1962): Gideon was denied his right to a lawyer as guaranteed by the 6th Amendment because his offense did not meet the threshold for indigent counsel appointment as established by the state of Florida. In the 1962 ruling, The U.S. Supreme Court incorporated the civil liberty guarantee of a right to counsel to the states in all levels of offense.
    • Mapp v. Ohio (1961): When illegally obtained evidence was seized from Dollree Mapp and then used against her to convict her of a crime, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1960 that evidence collected in violation of the 4th Amendment must be excluded from trial in all levels of government courts.
    • Miranda v. Arizona (1965): In the three cases that comprised Miranda v. Arizona, those accused of
      Amicus curiae submitted to the Supreme Court in Mapp v. Ohio, October 9, 1961, Records of the United States Supreme Court.

      Amicus curiae submitted to the Supreme Court in Mapp v. Ohio, October 9, 1961, Records of the United States Supreme Court.

      crimes were made to confess and sign statements without first being informed of their right to counsel as guaranteed by the 6th The U.S. Supreme Court extended the civil liberties for those accused of crimes in mandating police warnings of rights prior to interrogation—thus giving us the most widely quoted phrase on TV.

Wow! That was a tough one! I am looking forward to a new round of students eager to gain political efficacy and overcome apathy. I think this better, more analytical understanding of the 14th Amendment, civil rights, and civil liberties coupled with the primary source documents for each element will be crucial in achieving this goal.

Good luck in 2016—it will be fun to see what College Board puts out next!

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Educators in Chicago Digitize the WWI Homefront

Teachers in Chicago

Last week we welcomed educators to our annual Primarily Teaching summer institute in Chicago to explore documents on the homefront of World War I.  These teachers delved into the holdings of the National Archives at Chicago, and found some great documents on this topic appropriate for classroom lessons and activities.

The WWI homefront is a broad subject, but these teachers stepped up to the challenge, and selected documents on food regulation and substitution, and those investigating Bolshevik labor activists, espionage and sedition, and detained enemy alien cases.

Supportive of the food substitution effort, Cracker Jacks advertised  their use for replacing nuts in cookies and cakes.  Page 2 of The Real Food Value Pamphlet from Rueckheim Bros & Eckstein, 1918. From the Records of the U.S. Food Administration.

Supportive of the food substitution effort, Cracker Jack was advertised as a replacement for salted nuts, and as a base ingredient for cookies and cakes.
Page 2 of The Real Food Value Pamphlet from Rueckheim Bros & Eckstein, 1918.  From the Records of the U.S. Food Administration.

As the documents from this workshop show, WWI was a battle on both the field and at home.  While soldiers risked their lives in trenches across the sea, the rest of America was vigilant in the fight for both food and labor.  Wheat, sugar, and meat were being substituted out of meals all over the country in order to give these precious food items to “our boys overseas.”  The regulation of food was an important effort that depended on homes, restaurants, and even hotels to cut back on consumption.

Leo Dergis of Detroit was found guilty of circulating socialist and anti-draft literature. Page 1 of Indictment of Leo Dergis, 6/1917.  From the Records of District Courts of the United States.

Leo Dergis of Detroit was found guilty of circulating socialist and anti-draft literature.
Page 3 of Indictment of Leo Dergis, 6/1917. From the Records of District Courts of the United States.

Then, on the production side of things there was a sense of increased scrutiny between workers.  This watchfulness was especially directed towards labor activists and those in support of socialist agendas, as anyone threatening to disrupt the efficiently run manufacturing plants was considered a danger to wartime production.

Thanks to the educators and the National Archives staff who assisted with the document scanning and uploading, these documents on the WWI homefront are now digitized and available for anyone to read and use on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

And, better yet, the teachers spent time during the workshop creating interactive DocsTeach activities using their uploaded documents. So not only are the documents accessible online, but some great ready-made student activities on the WWI homefront are as well! (If you complete the free registration to set up an account, or log in to your existing account, you will see all of the activities created with a document when you look at a specific document’s webpage.)

The teachers hard at work hunting for documents in the Chicago Archives.

The teachers hard at work hunting for documents in the National Archives at Chicago.

This summer, Chicago is one of five Primarily Teaching locations across the country.  Each of the summer institutes highlights the National History Day theme of “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History,but individually chose a specific case study to explore under the broader topic.

The educators who participated in Chicago did a wonderful job researching the theme. And because of their hard work, documents like those on the wheatless and meatless meals of the World War I homefront are readily available to the classroom.

Primarily Teaching is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the support of Texas Instruments and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

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New NASA Documents Digitized by Teachers in Atlanta

Last week, we welcomed teachers to Atlanta for our annual Primarily Teaching summer institute.  These educators explored the holdings of the National Archives at Atlanta for classroom-suitable documents, and ended up discovering NASA documents on really interesting space topics like the SkyLab 3 zero-gravity student experiment.

Design for the Student Experiment's Spider Compartment. Page 1 of the I-V-23 Skylab Student Project: Web Formation in Zero Gravity, 1973. From the Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. National Archives Identifier: 20150116

Proposed design for the spider compartment.
Page 4 of the I-V-23 Skylab Student Project: Web Formation in Zero Gravity, 1973. From the Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Available on DocsTeach.

The year 1973 found two spiders, Arabella and Anita, blasting off into space.  The SkyLab 3 spider experiment started with a curious high school student, Judy Miles, who wondered if spiders could spin webs in zero gravity.  NASA was intrigued with the idea, and promptly began working on the logistics of sending spiders into weightlessness conditions.

Both Spiders were successful in spinning webs, but only Arabella returned to Earth to keep spinning. Anita, Job Done, Dies Aboard Skylab, 9/19/1973. From the Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Archives Identifier: 20150119

Both spiders were successful in spinning webs, but only Arabella returned to Earth to keep spinning.
Anita, Job Done, Dies Aboard Skylab, 9/19/1973. From the Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Available on DocsTeach.

Arabella and Anita spent a few days of sloppy web-weaving adjusting to their new conditions in space, but by the end of their mission, they were spinning webs in the same patterns they had spun back at home, proving that spiders really can spin webs in zero gravity—and just as well as they can on Earth!

Because of the hard work of these educators, and the staff who assisted with scanning the documents, anyone curious about the SkyLab spiders can now find these documents on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

Atlanta is just one of our Primarily Teaching locations this summer.  Each workshop focuses on a specific topic, but all fit into the National History Day theme of Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.” The research in Atlanta was a great success, and thanks to the effort of these teachers, documents on the SkyLab 3 student experiment and other space endeavors can now be accessed and used for teaching and classroom activities.

The National Archives at Chicago held Primarily Teaching last week too, digitizing documents related to the WWI homefront, so check back soon to hear more about their findings!

Primarily Teaching is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the support of Texas Instruments and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

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The First National Park

Today’s post comes from Holly Chisholm, social media intern in our Education and Public Programs Division.

With the end of school, and the beginning of summer, we’ll be switching up some of our posts for the season.  Look for document spotlight posts like this one to learn about some of the interesting documents, photographs, and other records we have at the National Archives.

Yellowstone Park Act

“Dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”
First page of the Yellowstone Park Act, 3/1/1872. From the General Records of the United States Government. National Archives Identifier: 596351

Today’s spotlight document is the 1872 Yellowstone Park Act.  This public law was an ingenious American invention, born from a desire to protect the natural wonders of the West.  In 1864, the State of California had reserved Yosemite as parkland, but the Federal Government officially made the land at the head of Wyoming’s Yellowstone River the first national park by signing this act into effect.

The 1872 Yellowstone Park Act highlights the borders of Yellowstone National Park, and protects the wildlife, natural wonders, and resources of the area from being spoiled by settlement or profit-seekers.  It also stipulates accommodations for visitors to be built on property, and that the proceeds of such places return directly into the park for road upkeep, as well as for nature’s protection.

Yellowstone National Park is home to beautiful canyons, plains, and one of the world’s largest collection of geysers—the most famous being the one pictured here, Old Faithful.

Yellowstone National Park is home to beautiful canyons, plains, and one of the world’s largest collection of geysers—the most famous being the one pictured here, Old Faithful.
Photograph of Old Faithful Geyser Erupting in Yellowstone National Park, 1942. From the Records of the National Park Service. National Archives Identifier: 519994

Most importantly, though, this act dedicates the land to the people.  Generation after generation, we can still view America’s natural curiosities and untouched landscapes thanks to the establishment of the first national park.

You can see more about the Progressive Era or our national parks on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

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Congratulations, Barrie Moorman, NHD Teacher of the Year!

Today’s post comes from Missy McNatt, education specialist at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and DC National History Day Coordinator.

NHD logoCongratulations to Barrie Moorman, teacher at EL Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, DC, for being named the Patricia Behring Senior Division Teacher of the Year at the National History Day (NHD) Awards Ceremony today!

Ms. Moorman won the DC Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award at the DC NHD competition at the end of April. She then competed against affiliate winners from across the nation to win the national title for 2015. Along with the honor of being selected as the teacher of the year, as the national winner, Ms. Moorman receives $10,000.

Why is Ms. Moorman an outstanding teacher? First and foremost, she cares about her students. And she believes in her students.

National History Day at EL Haynes is not reserved for the advanced students. Rather it a program for the students who failed a year of history, scored in the bottom 50% of their class, and had learning differences. Ms. Moorman believes that high expectations and requiring high-level products from all students is the way to make a difference. The students receive support from start to finish with their NHD projects.

When the students shared their projects at their school and city competitions, the pride in their work was palpable. For many students, this was the first time they had completed a major project working over months rather than just a few days.

According to Ms. Moorman: “During the quarter in which we focused on NHD, we had our highest course grades of the year and lowest rates of failure. Students started to mentor their peers on other research projects, and for many of them, taking on leadership roles was atypical; they were proud to show off their new knowledge and able to help others to catch up. It was a transformative experience for the students and for our school.”

The National Archives supports the National History Day program nationwide in a variety of ways. Thousands of students from across the nation use primary sources from the National Archives in their research. The National Archives at Philadelphia manages the Philadelphia city competition; and the National Archives in Washington, DC, facilitates the year-long DC National History Day program. Other National Archives locations offer NHD student and teacher workshops and host competitions. And many National Archives employees serve as judges, from the local level to the national NHD competition in College Park, MD, in June each year.

National Archives’ History Day activities are made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the support of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

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Congress Creates the Bill of Rights App: Android and PDF Release

The Center for Legislative Archives is pleased to announced that our mobile app for tablets, Congress Creates the Bill of Rights, is now available for Android devices and as a PDF. The app situates the user in the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights. Its menu-based organization presents a historic overview, a detailed study of the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, and opportunities for participation and reflection designed for individual or collaborative exploration.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights App

We also have online resources available for teachers and students to facilitate learning with the app.

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Summer Programs in DC: Cursive, Immigration, July 4th, Genealogy, Magna Carta and a Sleepover!

If you’ll be near Washington, DC, join us for our upcoming programs and professional development opportunities.

Magna Carta Family Day
Saturday, June 6, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Magna Carta

Read the translation from Latin.

Celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta!  Meet Eileen Cameron and Doris Ettlinger, the author and illustrator of Rupert’s Parchment: Story of Magna Carta, a new book perfect for ages 6-11.  Participants will engage in hands-on activities as they discover more about this document that helped shaped how we think about rights.

Magna Carta is widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy. With it, the King of England placed himself and England’s future sovereigns and magistrates within the rule of law. The copy housed at the National Archives was created in 1297 and placed on loan to the National Archives as a gift to the American people by David M. Rubenstein.

Saving Cursive: New tools in the fight for Handwriting
Thursday, June 25, 1–3 p.m.

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others, September 11, 1789. From the Records of the U.S. Senate

Digital technology and time pressures in today’s classroom raise questions about whether teaching cursive handwriting is relevant or worthwhile.  However, growing research says cursive provides benefits that keyboarding does not and linking handwriting to academic success.  Linda Shrewsbury, creator and president of CursiveLogic, will demonstrate her intuitive approach for teaching cursive handwriting. Consider this event one step towards preserving cursive for the next generation.

This program is presented in partnership with Fahrney’s Pens.

Independence Day Celebration 
Saturday, July 4

Join us July 4thFlags on National Archives Building as we celebrate our nation’s birthday! Exhibits, including the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, which houses the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, will be open 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. From 11 a.m.–4 p.m., enjoy hands-on family activities, including story time, crafts and more!  Meet John and Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Ned Hector, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

This program is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the support of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and John Hancock Financial.

History, Heroes, and Treasures SleepoverSleepover in the Rotunda
July 25-26

Kids ages 8-12 along with their adults will participate in activities, talk with historical figures from history, sleep in the Rotunda near the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and make memories to last a lifetime. Learn more.

Genealogy Camp for Kids Ages 12 and Up
July 20-24, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.

Girl in Exhibit

This hands-on camp will introduce the basics of genealogy research and help kids discover how to use the resources of the National Archives to be history detectives into their past!
Learn more.

This program is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the support of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and John Hancock Financial.

Immigration Workshop: Professional Development for Teachers
Thursday, August 6, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Ellis Island Menu

Menu for the Immigrant Dining Room on Ellis Island, 1/21/1920. From the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Join us as we explore the topic of immigration using primary sources from the National Archives. During this three-hour workshop, you will examine a selection of high quality facsimiles of documents from Ellis Island, Angel Island, and other immigration stations across the United States.

Together we will brainstorm innovative means to introduce these rich sources into your teaching. The workshop will also include a tour of the National Archives’ new permanent exhibit Records of Rights. To register or for more information, email education@nara.gov with the subject line: Immigration Workshop.

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Summer Professional Development

We still have a few spots available for summertime PD around the country.


Image of Wong Kim Ark who was denied reentry to the United States upon his return from an 1894 visit to China

Denied reentry to the United States upon his return from an 1894 visit to China, San Francisco–born Wong Kim Ark was detained by the collector of customs in San Francisco. Wong filed a habeas corpus action against his detention. (Image from Departure Statement of Wong Kim Ark, 11/5/1894. From the Records of District Courts of the United States. National Archives Identifier: 2641490)

Teacher Professional Development at the National History Day National Contest

Teaching Historical Inquiry using Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange through Multiple Lenses of Immigration

June 15, 9–11:30 a.m. at the University of Maryland

How is history researched and written? Do students know how to read historical texts? How can you help your students construct a historical narrative and interpret historical themes? How can you enhance interest in a national topic by making local connections?

Join the National Archives for a session that will explore Chinese Immigration and the Ganges slave ship case. The session will focus on specific areas of instruction that are tied to the Core Curriculum and C3 Framework such as close reading of primary sources to develop sequencing skills and understanding of source perspective, using secondary sources to corroborate and diversify the inquiry process, understanding historic impact and context, developing an analytical thesis, and presenting a case study to demonstrate the power of informed action. This case study will show the importance of using multiple historical sources and connecting local history to larger national and international narratives.

Teachers will receive digital documents from the immigration case studies, tutorials for DocsTeach.org (our online tool for teaching with documents), sample lesson plans, and resource sheets.

Register online.


Primarily Teaching DC 2014 Participants

Primarily Teaching

Our summer institute for educators on using historical documents in the classroom. 

Each location will explore a specific topic using original documents in our archival holdings:

  • The National Archives at Atlanta (Morrow, GA): To the Moon!: NASA Records,
    June 22–26
  • The National Archives at Chicago: The U.S. Encounters a World War: The WWI Homefront in the Midwest, June 22–26
  • The National Archives at Seattle: Effects of Lewis and Clark on Modern Native America, July 6–10
  • The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, IA: Case Studies from the Hoover Library, July 20–24

Participants will produce a learning activity on DocsTeach.org, and will have the opportunity to continue researching the case study or to independently research another topic.

Learn more and apply online.


2015 American Studies Summer Institute

The American Studies Summer Institute at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Nature and Nation Transformed: Rethinking the Role of the Environment in America’s Past and Present

July 6–17, 2015 (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)

Join us this summer for an intensive two-week program of thought-provoking lectures and discussions led by distinguished scholars and guests. The American Studies Summer Institute, an annual program co-sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Boston and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, offers educators and graduate students the opportunity to explore in depth a topic drawn from American history, politics, culture, or social policy.

This year’s program, held at the Kennedy Library, will ask the following questions: How have the environment, geography, and climate shaped American lives and thought and, in turn, how have Americans transformed the physical world around them? How does investigating the interdependence of nature and human activity deepen our understanding of American history?

Learn more and register online; the deadline is May 29.

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Thanks, Teachers! Great finds!

During Teacher Appreciation Week, we give thanks to teachers around the world for all their hard work educating and guiding students!

Primarily Teaching DC 2014 Participants

Primarily Teaching at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC

We’d like to give a special thanks to the teachers who digitized some really cool documents from the holdings of the National Archives as part of our Primarily Teaching Summer Institute.

Female Drill Operator

Female Drill Operator at Watertown Arsenal,
1918. From the Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance. National Archives Identifier: 7450283. This document was digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2013 Summer Workshop in Boston.

For the last two summers, educators researching at our locations around the country — including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC — have found hundreds of written documents, maps, photographs, and more that make great teaching tools.

Teachers in Chicago

Primarily Teaching in Chicago

Our “digitization scholars,” as we call them, focus on documents that can be used in the classroom to demonstrate a particular historical concept or event, and ones that won’t be too difficult or overwhelming for students.

We’re looking forward to seeing new finds from this summer’s class of Primarily Teaching teachers as they research topics like: NASA, the WWI Homefront, the Effects of Lewis and Clark on Modern Native America, Chinese Immigration, and topics from the Herbert Hoover Library.

 

Thanks also to the National Archives Foundation, with the support of Texas Instruments, by whom Primarily Teaching is in part made possible.

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Space Race Teaching Activities

This Friday, May 1st is National Space Day.  How can you celebrate this day that highlights the achievements and benefits of space exploration with your students?

Apollo 11 Commemorative First Day Issue Stamp

Apollo 11 Commemorative First Day Issue Stamp from Postcard, 1969. From the White House Staff Member and Office Files (Nixon Administration) Collection. National Archives Identifier 1634230.

Visit DocsTeach, with its numerous primary sources related to the history of NASA and American space exploration, all from the holdings of the National Archives.

These primary sources come in a variety of forms, including written documents, photographs, and videos. Several DocsTeach activities teach students about the pioneering Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. These early manned space programs set the foundation for the modern space program.


The Mercury Program

Astronaut Scott Carpenter Looking inside his Aurora 7 Spacecraft

Astronaut Scott Carpenter looking inside his Mercury spacecraft capsule “Aurora 7” prior to launch on May 24, 1962. From the Records of the U.S. Senate. National Archives Identifier 7430760.

The political tension between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II led to the Cold War and launched a Space Race between the two countries. This tension was the impetus behind the Mercury program. The United States wanted to prove it not only had the technology, but was capable of sending man into space.

The Space Race: Project Mercury activity allows older students to investigate the Space Race by analyzing a memorandum written by Mercury 7 astronauts to the Mercury program director.


The Gemini Program

Astronaut Edward H. White II's Space Walk on Gemini IV

Astronaut Ed White was the first American to walk in space during the Gemini IV mission on June 3, 1965. From the Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. National Archives Identifier 4728365.

In a speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, in September of 1962, President John F. Kennedy promised that the United States would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade.  With this promise, the Gemini program’s goal was to learn new techniques that would later help the United States in its exploration of the moon.

The Process of Early Space Flight: The Gemini Program gives younger students the opportunity to investigate the process of early space flight by sequencing a series of photographs from the Gemini missions.


The Apollo Program

Astronaut Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr. Posing on the Moon Next to the U.S. Flag

Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. posing on the moon next to the American flag on July 20, 1969. From the Records of the U.S. Information Agency. National Archives Identifier 593743.

Early American space exploration culminated with the Apollo program reaching the moon. In Landing a Man on the Moon: President Nixon and the Apollo Program, older students will be able to analyze documents to understand the impact and significance of the Apollo program. Students are urged to question if the Apollo program ended the Space Race.

By 1975, Americans and Russians partnered in the Apollo-Soyuz program to further explore space. In Apollo-Soyuz: Space Age Détente, older students can continue learning about the complex relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and the role that space exploration played in the past.

 

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