Under the guidance of Grade 7 history teacher Emma Simmons, students learn that history is not just a listing of facts but that it also includes the interpretations of historians that have come before them. “As members of the academic discipline of history, Grade 7 students at Graland learn how to analyze a reading to identify a historian’s point of view, evaluate the validity of their sources, and think critically to draw their own conclusions of the past. This is the work of studying a secondary source,” Mrs. Simmons shared. “What’s more difficult, however, is thinking of ways to analyze a primary source.”
For those that have been out of Grade 7 history class for a while, “Secondary sources were created by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you’re researching. For a historical research project, secondary sources are generally scholarly books and articles,” (Harvard Library). Furthermore, “Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Primary sources can include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later,” (Harvard Library).
When searching for the best resource to teach her students about primary sources, Mrs. Simmons remembered the perfect tool located right on our very own campus: The Graland Archives.
“I wanted to create a learning experience early in the year that did not rely on any one student having certain historical prior knowledge, so naturally, the idea of the history of our school came to mind. Using the Graland Archives, I gathered eight primary sources (photographs, parent reflections, newspaper clippings, etc.) for students to practice the very hard skill of close reading and primary source analysis. While it was sometimes a daunting task, I was pleased to find how engaged and curious students were when they noticed the sources were about their very own school,” Mrs. Simmons said.
While this was a new activity for students in her classroom, Mrs. Simmons plans to keep it as a yearly lesson to allow the Graland students of today to connect with Graland students of the past.
“I think learning about the school’s history is an opportunity for students to reflect on how far the school has come since the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s,” Mrs. Simmons said. “My hope for this activity is that it encourages the students to always think critically, read closely, infer, wonder, and be curious.”