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 Learning Our Community's American Lore

Past News & Events

Project LOCAL Workshop on Teaching with Primary Sources: Somerville Goes to the Movies
Held November 18, 2006  
A Project LOCAL Workshop

This was the second of two workshops to be held at Tufts University in which participating teachers (grades 2-12) from Medford, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop studied the use of primary sources of local origin in teaching US history. Teachers spent the day reviewing primary sources from their communities and studying the politics of writing textbooks. The day began with a brief review and classification of primary sources from early 20th-century Winthrop: What can each type of source tell us? What can't it tell us? What does this mean for the classroom? The group then "went to the movies" with a screening of Mary Pickford's "Rags," a film that was shown in many of Somerville's 14 neighborhood movie theaters. Who went to see movies like "Rags" and what might it have meant to them? Working from this digital source as inspiration to think about the immigrant experience of Somerville in the first half of the 20th century, the groups divided by town to examine primary source packets from Medford, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop. Each collection contained historical Sanborn insurance maps of a single street in the town, census material from that town, yearbooks and newspaper articles, as well as other historical documents unique to each town. After lunch, the teachers received a primer on the power of Geographic Information Systems to represent data - such as % of owner-occupied houses by community - across time and space. Finally, the workshop ended with an introduction to the politics of writing textbooks, led by the co-author of a controversial California history text. An involved discussion ensued from questions as simple as: if you were a textbook editor assigned to tell the history of the United States, in which region of the country would you begin the book? Following the workshop, teachers have returned to their districts to conduct their own meetings and to plan how their own students will do the work of historians.

For more information about Project LOCAL, please see: http://ase.tufts.edu/local  


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