Join us at NCSS!

The 95th National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Annual Conference starts next month in New Orleans. Please join us for the following sessions:

Amending America: Some Assembly Required

Friday, Nov. 13, 10:05 to 10:55 a.m.

The National Archives celebrates the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights with new free material for grades K–12. Receive lessons highlighting how this iconic document continues to shape society.

Presented by:

  • Mickey Ebert, National Archives at Kansas City
  • Sara Lyons Davis, National Archives at New York City
  • Amber Kraft, National Archives in Washington, DC
  • Missy McNatt, National Archives in Washington, DC

National History Day, the National Archives, and C3: Using the NHD Theme with C3 in the Classroom

Identification Photograph on Affidavit “In the Matter of Wong Kim Ark, Native Born Citizen of the United States” Filed with the Immigration Service in San Francisco Prior to His May 19 Departure on the Steamer “China"

ID photo on affidavit for Wong Kim Ark in his investigation case conducted under the Chinese Exclusion Act, available on

Friday, Nov. 13, 4:25 to 5:15 p.m.

Join the National Archives and National History Day in a discussion about incorporating the NHD theme into a C3 unit by using primary sources. Chinese immigration will be used as an example and a C3 unit will be provided.

Presented by:

  • Elizabeth Dinschel, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa
  • Lynne O’Hara, National History Day

11,000 Attempts to Amend the Constitution: What Works, What Doesn’t

Proposed constitutional amendment that would have prevented Congress from passing legislation interfering with a state’s “domestic institutions . . . including that of persons held to labor or service.”

Proposed amendment to prevent Congress from interfering with a state’s “institutions . . . including that of persons held to labor or service,” available on

Saturday, Nov. 14, 8:00 to 8:50 a.m.

How Americans have attempted to amend the Constitution illustrates our understanding of citizenship and what it means to be American. The session will give educators a chance to analyze primary sources from the National Archives.

Presented by Christine Blackerby, Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC

26 Sure-Fire Ideas for Teaching Civics

Saturday, Nov. 14 8:00 to 8:50 a.m.

This will be a fast-paced, fun session with 26 ideas, one for each of the 26 members of the Civics Renewal Network, that you can take back and use in your classroom.

Presented by our partners in the Civics Renewal Network

Civics Renewal Network home page

Bonnie Simmons, social media intern in our Education and Public Programs Division, contributed to this post.

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Sharing Our Teaching Resources: Evenings of Exploration

Educators at Open HouseWe hosted our annual open houses for educators at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on September 24th, and at the National Archives at New York City on October 15th.

Educators from various schools, locations, and grade levels came to explore our interactive tools and learn how to implement them in their classrooms. Here are some of the resources that we featured.

Inside the classroom

Online Resources

DocsTeach is our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. You can explore and use primary sources and find great lessons created by the National Archives and other educators. And if you’re feeling more creative, use any of our tools to craft your own fresh material for your students.Viewing Online Resources

The Digital Vaults is an interactive online exhibition showcasing documents from the holdings of the National Archives.

Our online catalog is our main database for access to the digitized holdings of the National Archives, and composed of millions of digitized documents and archival information about them.

Founders Online is our searchable archive of the correspondence and other writings of six of the Founding Fathers.

Distance Learning

Connecting Via VideoconferenceIt’s a great way to learn from afar! Whether it’s in the classroom or at home, our interactive programs showcase historical documents, images, maps and posters that can help students understand and put documents in context. We offer videoconferences for students as well as webinars for teachers — all for free.

Bill of Rights eBook and App

Check out our free app for tablets and eBook, launched to commemorate the 225th anniversary of Congress’s passage of the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights AppThe app is a fun learning tool providing an interactive experience about the creation of the Bill of Rights. Students can “experience” debates, the revision process, and more. The app is available for iPad, Android, and in PDF format.

The eBook is a microscopic look at James Madison and his role in creating the Bill of Rights and creating the Constitution. It is available on our website and iBooks.


Discover all of our eBooks — including on topics such as baseball, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Constitution — on our website.

Outside the classroom

The Constitution-In-Action Learning Lab in Washington, DC

In our learning lab at the National Archives Museum students play the roles of researchers and archivists as they analyze and connect primary sources to the Constitution. This free, fun, hands-on program gives students the chance to discuss and focus on the Constitution in groups of 12-36 participants. It’s not an ordinary field trip!

In the RotundaExhibits in Washington, DC

During the open house, educators visited our exhibits as well. Our permanent and temporary exhibits offer a shorter option for DC-based field trips. Students can see foundational documents like the Bill of Rights, Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Magna Carta.

The Learning Center at the National Archives at New York City

We offer free curriculum-based, student field trips for schools, home-schoolers, camps, and other learning communities to learn about the National Archives and the rich primary sources it holds that tell our American story. All visits are free, can accommodate 15-35, and are offered Monday through Friday.

Presidential Libraries

Reading the Presidential PressOur Presidential Libraries around the country provide a broad range of educational opportunities for students of all ages. Each Library offers programs designed to introduce students to American history and the Presidency and to inform teachers about the use of primary source documents in teaching history.

Primarily Teaching

Our annual summer institute, held at locations around the country, is a great way to get hands on with primary sources. It’s designed for teachers to get first-hand experience researching original documents in our holdings, as well as our online resources. In this multi-day workshop, educators research about specific case studies, digitize documents, and create DocsTeach activities. Check out some of the work of our past participants!

Today’s post came from Bonnie Simmons, social media intern in our Education and Public Programs Division.

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New Chinese Exclusion Act Book and Course!

We’re happy to announce the release of two new learning tools for exploring the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act:

Interrogation and Image of Jew YeungThe Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. Documents and records of individual case files and Certificates of Residence housed in the National Archives detail the individual stories resulting from this and subsequent legislation.

These new resources explore stories about Chinese immigrants through primary source document analysis. The stories contained also reveal how the democratic rights of American-born children of Chinese immigrants were affected by Chinese Exclusion laws. Analyzing the stories that emerge from these sources provides perspective on U.S. immigration history.

The book — available on iPad, iPhone, and Mac — weaves together primary source documents from the Immigration Service, custom houses, ports of entry, and Angel Island Immigration Station. It includes interactive features, questions for topic exploration and reflection, transcriptions for highlighting, and review activities.

Certificates of Residence Page from Book

“The Chinese Exclusion Act” on iTunes U is a self-paced course designed to take 21 weeks. It incorporates the companion book, articles, videos, and assignments. It challenges students to explore, discover, and research in the digitized records of the National Archives to further understand the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act and related legislation.

This project was made possible through a collaboration with Apple Distinguished Educators Cheryl Davis and Mia Morrison, who are the main authors of the book and course. Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) are part of a global community of education leaders recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom. The collaboration was supported through the ADEs in Residence Program, which places selected ADEs in some of the world’s leading museums, archives, science centers, and cultural organizations to develop innovative teaching and learning resources.

In the past six months, we’ve more than doubled the number of digitized records related to Chinese immigration available in our main online catalog. This is thanks to both Mia and Cheryl, and teachers who participated in our Primarily Teaching Summer Institute in Washington, DC.

These documents are all available as teaching tools on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

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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 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


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   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 located 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

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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, our popular online tool for teaching with documents.

Look for our updated site in summer 2016! [Updated 3/25/16]

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 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

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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