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Online ambassadors bring American memories to life. (Social Studies).

With nearly 7.5 million online primary sources documenting America's history, The Library of Congress wants to ensure that schools are using this rich digital collection. Instead of just building a stable of lesson plans on the American Memory Learning Page, humanities teachers and library media specialists from around the country have been trained annually since 1997 as online ambassadors. These American Memory Fellows create teaching units that are both posted online and shared through workshops and forums in their own communities. Professional development materials that allow schools to plan their own training sessions are expected to be online this month (national institutes are no longer offered). In addition, a quarterly electronic newsletter with teaching ideas launched in August in the "Educators" section of the Learning Page site.

"We have this silent army of educators," says Susan Veccia, manager of educational services for National Digital Library, of those who are spreading the word about the value of primary sources. Veccia notes that the fellows are often trained in teams of two, a teacher and a librarian.

Librarian Debbie Abilock from Nueva School, a preK-8 independent school in Hillsborough, Calif., says she participated in the institute to help "create an authentic experience for kids-as-historians.... Primary sources lend themselves to inquiry-based curriculum, since not everything is known about the context and the source." Her lesson, developed with a humanities teacher at Nueva, explores children's lives in the early 20th century.

A lesson comparing the political strategies of today with those of the early 1900s, when women were trying to win the right to vote, was created by library media specialist Gail Petri and a fifth grade teacher at Fyle Elementary School in Rochester, N.Y.'s Rush-Henrietta Central School District. Petri says introducing primary sources is "not like opening a teacher's manual....

It's locating documents that have a relationship with the topics you're teaching and determining how to do that."

Eliza Hamrick, a history teacher at Overland High School in Aurora, Colo., says that the photos, maps, letters, baseball cards, recipes and many other primary source formats on the Learning Page can interest even the most reluctant learners. She and a media specialist at her school developed a lesson about evolving attitudes toward women getting the right to vote. As Hamrick shares the site with other teachers, she has found that it "sells itself ... The site is American democracy at work and makes one proud to be in a country that cherishes and proudly shares her historic documents with the world."
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Title Annotation:Library of Congress' digital collection
Author:Ezarik, Melissa
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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