Friday, July 8, 2011

Report 3: Reflecting on the Last Three Weeks

Now that we are wrapping up our third week of the program (and our final week before the students join us), we wanted to take some time to reflect on what we have done thus far and why we have decided to do what we are doing with the students once they are here. Our first week here went by pretty quickly, full of tours that allowed us to learn the background information surrounding the Morristown National Historical Park sites, discussing and brainstorming to figure out topics and themes for both the student week and the Traveling Archives Box, and then looking through the Finding Aid and researching documents that we each found interesting. Once we had had a chance to explore the wide range of sources in the Lloyd W. Smith collection, we brought together our plethora of documents and arranged them under various categories in order to prepare ourselves for the next step: sorting through and selecting what documents we really wanted to use. The narrowing down process was difficult, since there are so many exciting and exhilarating documents in the collection, but we ultimately got down to a manageable sized group (have 3-6 documents per category). Using this group of documents, we were able to flesh out both the plan for the week and the lesson plans for the Box, developing various activities, lectures, and presentations to get the students thinking about both the documents and artifacts and the historical process.
While putting everything together, we realized that our actions and the process we were following would be helpful to share with the students for their future historical work. This became our philosophy behind the week with the students and the lesson plans. We decided we want to teach them not only how to think historically, but also how to be Mini-Historians. We will have each day reflect a particular step in what we see as the process for doing historical work: the first day will be about discovering interests and choosing topics, the second day will be about brainstorming different types of documents and artifacts that can be used while researching and then gathering these sources together, the third day will be about analyzing and interpreting those sources and understanding how a physical space can also be used for historical research, and the fourth and fifth days will be about presenting the work they have done and discussing how places, items, and parks are preserved and what career paths historians can follow. While doing all this, they will also be learning about the important role Morristown and other National Historical Parks play in the community and the extensive collection that is housed at this site.

We also composed a couple of worksheets pertaining to the anatomy of a history paper and tips we wish we had learned in high school about what to do and what not to do when writing a paper. Coupled with the week's activities and lesson plans, we feel these worksheets will be great tools that the students can continue to use throughout their high school and college careers.

We look forward to meeting all the students on Monday and cannot wait to see what their different personalities and interests add to the program! The week with them should be full of many exciting moments of discovery, in regards to not only the documents, artifacts, and sites, but also the historical process and skills associated with it. We are very eager to share everything we've found and learned with them!

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