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.
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.
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.)
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.