What is the Freedom of Information Act?

You can see this post as it originally appeared on our sister blog The FOIA Ombudsman.

FOIA InfographicEarlier this year, we told you that we’re developing teaching activities about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that can be easily integrated into the history and social studies curricula.

The tools will draw upon real-world examples that foster democracy and explain how the public can use FOIA to learn more about the Government’s actions.

Our colleagues in the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives developed this infographic to explain basic facts about the public’s rights under FOIA and what to expect during the FOIA process.

Plain language and graphics are intended to help students easily understand the basic concepts of FOIA and where they can find more information about how to ask for copies of agency records.

You can use the infographic in your teaching toolbox right now (here’s the PDF). But you can also expect to see it integrated into forthcoming teaching activities on DocsTeach.org, our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

The first activity using the infographic will explore the public’s response to the civil rights marches beginning in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. In response to FOIA requests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a number of records detailing the events that occurred in Selma.

If you have other suggestions of records from the holdings of the National Archives that could help students understand the role of records in improving understanding of the government’s actions, please comment here or join our conversation on History Hub, the National Archives’ online community for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, and open government advocates.

We look forward to hearing from you, and to announcing release of our first activity incorporating FOIA!

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Free Bill of Rights Exhibit for Your School

Our high-resolution The Bill of Rights and You posters are now available for download! Find the PDF files at www.archives.gov/amending-america/visit/bill-of-rights-pop-up.

Update: Due to the high level of interest, we have no more Bill of Rights and You exhibits to distribute. Thousands will be on display in schools, libraries, museums and other community organizations soon!

We’re offering a free pop-up exhibit called The Bill of Rights and You to schools nationwide. It contains simple messages conveying the importance of the Bill of Rights, its history and implementation, and its impact today.

Bill of Rights Exhibit

Display Details:

  • Lightweight, easy to set up, and versatile
  • Use this pop-up unit in any public area—no walls necessary
  • Total assembled size is 66 1/2″ high by 32″ wide
  • Total footprint is approximately 45″ sq.
  • Includes digital educational materials
  • Delivered to your school between December 1 and 15, 2016

The Bill of Rights and You was developed by The National Archives Traveling Exhibits Services (NATES) as part of our commemoration of the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights

Download our flyer with more information here (PDF).

Presented in part by AT&T, Seedlings Foundation, and the National Archives Foundation. Distributed in collaboration with the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

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How Are You Persuaded? – Historical Election Memorabilia

Which would persuade you to vote for the candidate?

Multiple Choices with Campaign Memorabilia

A. Campaign Pin
B. Car with Children
C. Family Decoupage Plaque
D. Let’s Make America Great Again T-shirt

This question comes from our fun quiz: “How Are You Persuaded?” at www.docsteach.org/ask

We designed this “personality quiz” as a quick class warm-up activity — and to provide a way to bring historical campaigns and memorabilia into this election season. You can guide your students through the six questions to find out how political campaigns appeal to them. Take a class poll and cast your vote. Then see which type of campaigning you collectively lean toward. Do you like gadgets and technology? Humor? Constant reminders? Or maybe that personal touch?

If your students are intrigued, you can continue to share historical campaign memorabilia with them from our Election Collection page. Topics highlight political memorabilia from Presidential campaigns from the 1850s through the 1990s and include buttons, posters, novelty items, campaign trail photos, and more!

Campaign Buttons

These pieces of campaign history come from the collections of our Presidential Libraries and were identified as part of our #ElectionCollection challenge.

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Presidential Campaign Memorabilia on DocsTeach

Share historical campaign memorabilia with your students on our new DocsTeach Election Collection page!

Campaign ButtonsWe’ve assembled a wide variety of documents, photographs, artifacts and other historical items from the holdings of our Presidential Libraries — our Election Collection.

Topics highlight political memorabilia from Presidential campaigns from the 1850s through the 1990s. Check out posters, fashion, buttons & jewelry, food & drink, and more at: www.docsteach.org/topics/election

In honor of Election Tuesday, we’ll publish a new Election Collection theme every Tuesday until the Presidential election on November 8th. You can also follow along — and even share your own quirky, cool, and surprising historic memorabilia on Instagram or another social platform — in our #ElectionCollection Challenge.

These pieces of campaign history come from the collections of the Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, and William J. Clinton Presidential Libraries.

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Truman Presidential Inquiries

Today’s post comes from Mark Adams, education specialist at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO.

Historians practice their craft by asking questions about the past, then searching for evidence to construct the best answer possible. Similarly we learn history best by asking questions about the past, going to the original sources of history and evaluating what they tell us.

The lessons created in the “Truman Presidential Inquiries” project do just that. They pose a question connected to Truman’s time as president, then direct the learner to carefully consider what the evidence reveals.

Truman DBQ Website

The instructional sequence is intended to be flexible; instead of attempting to lay out what to do during single class periods, these lessons are designed to encourage the steps basic to every inquiry:

  1. Frame the inquiry – Decide what is worthy of investigation and how it will be accomplished.
  2. Go to the sources – Look for reliable sources on the topic, taking note of the diverse perspectives they reveal.
  3. Review the evidence – Evaluate the evidence to determine what answer or interpretation is best supported by this information.
  4. Communicate an answer – Share the best answer or interpretation to the original question in an interesting format.

We invite you to try out these lessons and even try creating your own. You can mix up these lessons to fit the needs of your students or the time constraints of your classroom. If the documents you find don’t satisfy your students’ curiosity, you will find that many of the valuable documents held by the Truman Library are digitized. Many of these are found in research files, organized by subject, or you can dig deeper with other archival finding aids.

During the summers of 2015 and 2016, Independence School District teachers created ten different inquiries examining a variety of issues during Truman’s presidency. These range from the use of the atomic bomb, to civil rights, to the establishment of the CIA and more. Each inquiry contains background information, an essential question for students to wrestle with, directions, and then primary source material from the Truman Library archives.

All the handouts and resources are downloadable and available for anyone to use from the Truman Library website at: www.trumanlibrary.org/dbq

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It’s Almost Constitution Day!

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.

The National Archives in Washington, DC, is the permanent home of the original United States Constitution. Here are a few resources that you can use to talk about the Constitution with your students on Constitution Day or any time.

The Constitution on DocsTeach

Bring the Constitution to LifeHelp your students understand ideas like checks and balances, separation of powers, amendments, the Bill of Rights, slavery and the Constitution, and more through primary sources and online activities on our special Constitution page on DocsTeach.org.

Students can connect primary sources that span the course of American history to the principles found in the Constitution. For example, in “The Constitution at Work” they will match historical documents to specific wording in the Constitution to understand how our government’s actions are guided by this document.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBookCongress Creates the Bill of Rights

You and your students can explore how the First Congress proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789 in “Congress Creates the Bill of Rights.” This package, including eBook, mobile app for tablets, and online teaching resources, shows how the ratification of the Constitution necessitated the creation of the Bill of Rights, and how the creation of the Bill of Rights, in turn, completed the Constitution.

Constitution eBook and iTunes U Course

Learn about the Constitutional Convention, drafting and ratifying the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the three branches of our Federal government, and how the National Archives is preserving our Constitution in a Constitution course on iTunes U. Or read “Exploring the United States Constitution,” an eBook that explores the Constitutional roots of the three branches of our government while featuring connections to historical documents in the holdings of the National Archives.

The Preamble Challenge

The National Archives is a partner organization in the Civics Renewal Network, an alliance of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations committed to increasing the quality of civics education in our nation’s schools and improving accessibility to high-quality, no-cost learning materials.

Naturalization Ceremony at the Custom House in Salem, Mass.You can Celebrate Constitution Day with the Civics Renewal Network by signing up to take the Preamble Challenge, a nationwide celebration on September 16, and access a free Teacher Toolkit.

The Challenge is a fun, easy way to fulfill the Byrd Amendment, which requires educational institutions that receive federal funding to teach about the Constitution on Constitution Day. You can even share photos of your classroom activity on Twitter or Instagram using #ConstitutionDay2016 and visit CivicsRenewalNetwork.org on Constitution Day to see what other classes are doing!

The Original Constitution at the National Archives Museum

Inside the Rotunda for the Charters of FreedomAnyone can visit the Constitution in person at the National Archives. And online visitors can learn about the creation and history of the Constitution, and meet America’s Founding Fathers, in the “The Charters of Freedom” online exhibit.

The Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab

Kids at Computer in the Constitution in Action Learning LabYou can plan a trip to the National Archives in Washington, DC, to participate in a Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab. School groups, families, and other groups of civic-minded individuals can take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action.

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Educator Open House in Washington, DC

If you’ll be in the DC area on Thursday, September 22, join us for our annual educator open house from 5:30–7:30 pm.

Light refreshments will be served. You can enjoy a special after-hours viewing of our exhibits, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

We’ll also provide an introduction to our:

  • classroom resources and primary sources,
  • online learning programs,
  • field trip options,
  • professional development opportunities, and
  • ideas and support for National History Day.

Come meet our National Archives education specialists and hear about the National Archives in your classroom!

Registration is requested but not required: https://www.archivesfoundation.org/event/educators-open-house-2016/

You can download the flyer here (PDF) to share with your education colleagues.

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WWI App Coming Soon, with Help from Educators

Today’s post comes from Kerri Young, engagement manager at Historypin, and Kimberlee Ried, public programs specialist at the National Archives at Kansas City.

The National Archives has teamed with Historypin, the National WWI Museum and Memorial the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Library of Congress and a growing number of cultural heritage partners to develop an engaging World War I app and website to dynamically highlight WWI content. The beta release will be available early this fall.

The app invites people nationwide to contribute their own stories and play a part in the centennial commemoration of the First World War. Building on an amazing moving image archive being digitized and preserved especially for the centennial, a flood of rarely seen, public domain images and films will encourage discovery and creative reuse.

Teachers at the WWI App Workshop

Thank you to the teachers who helped design the forthcoming WWI app!

In late June, teachers from across the country gathered in Kansas City at the National World War I Museum and Memorial to review an early version of this WWI app. Traveling to the workshop from Michigan, New York, Missouri, Arkansas, California, Tennessee, and Mississippi, those who attended were able to test out the functions and features of the app and provide critical design feedback. The primary aim was to explore realistic scenarios for how the app and its growing set of rich primary source materials can be used in a classroom setting.

This lively group of teachers provided invaluable feedback to the National Archives, as well as app-designer Historypin, who fed this information back into the app’s design process.WWI App Roundtable

Our WWI app is part of the larger Wartime Films Project, focused on taking a user-centered design approach toward engagement on a major digitization initiative of a unique collection of wartime films and rarely seen still images from WWI.

Workshops like the one in Kansas City are a key part our engagement project, in that we strive to maintain relationships with key external representatives who will follow our progress and feed it as we iterate. Teachers are one of our primary audiences for this project, and we are grateful for those who participated in our Kansas City workshop and helped to influence how this WWI app will be used in classrooms across the country and in Europe.

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The American Democracy Collection: Telling the story of Presidential Elections

This post originally appeared on our sister blog NARAtions.

From political campaigns to conventions, from constitutional amendments to landmark documents, the holdings of the National Archives document the history of American democracy in action.

To share some of these historic moments, we are pleased to participate in Google Arts & Culture’s American Democracy collection, contributing 13 interactive online exhibits that tell the story of presidential elections in the United States. These specially curated exhibits feature historic photos, documents, videos, and stories related to the history and evolution of elections, how we amend the Constitution, political cartoons and campaign memorabilia.

landing page for the American Democracy Google Cultural Institute exhibit

Some highlights in this exhibit collection include a document proposing a Constitutional amendment to elect the President with a lot system, the story of how LBJ championed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as presidents on the campaign trail, including some never-before-seen pictures of President Richard Nixon addressing the crowd at the Republican National Convention of 1972, photographed by renowned photographer Ollie Atkins and the White House Photo Office.

Richard Nixon standing at podium during campaign, 1972

Richard Nixon Standing at RNC Podium Over Delegates, Campaign 1972

View all of the U.S. National Archives online exhibits in the American Democracy Collection and on Google Cultural Institute.

This project is part of the Google Arts & Culture’s American Democracy collection, which brings together over 70 exhibits and 2500+ artifacts from 44 institutions dedicated to the preservation of U.S. political history and the practice of American democracy.

"Housewives for Truman" in New York, 1948

“Housewives for Truman” in New York, 1948

Can’t get enough campaign memorabilia? You can follow our #ElectionCollection Instagram challenge to see more quirky, col and surprising historic memorabilia!

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Introducing FOIA to a New Generation

You can see this post as it originally appeared on our sister blog The FOIA Ombudsman.

Students in a library

We hope our work will help young researchers learn to love FOIA. (National Archives Identifier 23932367)

The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, generally provides any person with the statutory right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to Government information in executive branch agency records.

FOIA is a powerful tool for those who wish to learn more about how government agencies do their work, but too many are unaware that the right to request government records exists.

So, in partnership with colleagues in our Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), we’re developing teaching resources about FOIA that can be easily integrated into secondary school lessons.

We envision these materials fitting neatly into existing units in social studies, history, civics, and government classes (but we can’t wait to hear how educators in other areas use them!).

In order to illustrate the power of records to shed light on the Government’s actions, these lessons will link FOIA to key historical events. As a first step, OGIS solicited input from staff across the National Archives to help identify records in the National Archives Catalog that link to important points in history.

We also hope that you can suggest records in the National Archives Catalog that will help students understand the role of records in improving understanding of the government’s actions. Join our conversation on History Hub, our online community for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, and open government advocates.

In October 2015, the White House released the Third U.S. Government National Action Plan. While NAP 3.0 includes a number of useful commitments from the National Archives, we are particularly excited about our commitment to develop curriculum tools to introduce secondary students to the Freedom of Information Act.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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