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Today’s post comes from Jenny Sweeney, education specialist at the National Archives at Fort Worth. 

Have you ever wanted to share the treasure trove of documents held at the National Archives with your students? Interactive Distance Learning programs are just the thing for you!

Rhesus Monkey in a molded couch for a space flight

One of our past programs covered animals in space! This is a Rhesus Monkey in a molded couch for a space flight. National Archives Identifier 6734340

Educators from the National Archives will visit your classroom and bring the National Archives to you…virtually.

Starting in the 2014–2015 school year, a whole new menu of programs will be available on topics ranging from the United States Constitution, to World War I, to Baseball.  There will be programs for all grade levels and all programs are FREE of charge.

Each program will focus on document-analysis strategies. Please stay tuned so that you can include one of these programs in your planning for next school year!

As the permanent home of the Constitution, we offer programs connecting this founding document to our government’s actions. National Archives Identifier 1667751



Tomorrow is June 6th—the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  To commemorate this important historical event, we published a new activity on DocsTeach that focuses on two documents related to D-Day.  The Night Before D-Day challenges students to compare and contrast a public statement and a private note written by General Dwight Eisenhower before the invasion to gain a better understanding of the mindset of Eisenhower.

Photograph of General Dwight D. Eisenhower Giving the Order of the Day

Photograph of General Dwight D. Eisenhower Giving the Order of the Day

The activity focuses on two documents that vary considerably in appearance, tone, and message.  The first is Order of the Day that was shared with 175,000 troops on the eve of the invasion.  Eisenhower worked on the language of this Order for months, carefully choosing his words to inspire the troops.  The second document is noticeably rougher—a misdated message scrawled on a piece of paper taking full blame for a potential failed invasion.

Screenshot of Activity

Teacher “missmorgan810″ gave us an on-the-ground report about using these documents in her classroom via Twitter. She told us at @DocsTeach that she “had students argue whether it was right/wrong of Eisenhower to write a failure letter.” The activity went “Surprisingly well! I expected everyone to put the same answers but their explanations even made me rethink my opinion!”

Don’t primary sources generate great discussions? According to missmorgan810, “Primary resources have allowed me to see a whole new side of my students. It’s awesome!” We agree!

We suggest teaching with this activity in units related to World War II. Students in grades 6-12 may work either individually or in small groups. Approximate time needed is 20 minutes. The activity can be found under The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945) or directly at http://docsteach.org/activities/5832/detail.

To begin the activity, ask students to read both documents.  Model careful document analysis with your students by directing their attention to the types of documents, any unique marks apparent, and the five Ws and H.  Then focus their attention on similarities and differences in the style, tone, audience, and message of these documents.  After reading, discuss these similarities and differences.

Specific questions to discuss include:

  • How does Eisenhower describe the invasion?
  • How does Eisenhower describe the troops?
  • How does Eisenhower describe the enemy?
  • How does Eisenhower describe his role in the invasion?

After discussing these details, ask students to imagine the mindset of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Allied forces in Europe during WWII, felt the night before the attack.

WWII: Europe: France; “Into the Jaws of Death - U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire”

WWII: Europe: France; “Into the Jaws of Death – U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire”

This could be a great activity for exploring Dwight Eisenhower for the 2015 National History Day “Leadership and Legacy in History” theme too!

This activity was adapted from an article formerly published on www.archives.gov/education by David Traill, a teacher at South Fork High School in Stuart, FL.

 

 

 



When the First Congress met in New York City in March of 1789, they faced an enormous undertaking. The new Constitution had just been ratified, and Congress was the first part of the new federal government to meet and take shape. Ahead of them lay numerous important and urgent tasks: they needed to create the Treasury, War, and Foreign Affairs departments; the federal judiciary; and a system of taxation and collection. They also needed to determine patent and copyright laws, rules for naturalization, the location of a new capital city, administration of the census, amendments to the Constitution, and much more.

But before the members of Congress could get to all of this pressing business, there was something more important they needed to do–so important that it was the first bill introduced in the House of Representatives, and the first act signed into law by President George Washington.

Oath Act, 1789 RG 11, web

An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths, June 1, 1789. Records of the General Government, National Archives. National Archives Identifier 596341 Transcript from Library of Congress.

“An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths” was signed into law on June 1, 1789. It prescribed the text of and procedure for the administration of the oath of office.

The act mandated that the oath be administered in the following form: “I, A.B. do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” This simple, straightforward oath fulfilled the constitutional requirement outlined in Article VI, clause 3:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution…

Although today it might seem fundamental to require an oath prior to the assumption of public office, the Founders didn’t all agree on the need. At the Constitutional Convention, Delegate James Wilson of Pennsylvania said of oaths, “A good government did not need them and a bad one could not or ought not to be supported.”

The Founders also debated who should take the oath, and came down with a firm statement of federal supremacy. The Constitution required not just federal officers to take the oath to support the Constitution, but also state officials.

This oath remained intact until the Civil War. In 1862, concerns about sabotage by southern sympathizers compelled Congress to rewrite the oath of office in an attempt to keep disloyal persons out of public office. In a law that became known as the Iron Clad Test Oath, Congress compelled new officials to swear not only that they would support the Constitution in the future, but also that they had in the past. Although originally exempted, members of Congress began taking the new oath in 1864.

Iron Clad Test Oath bill, June 5, 1862. Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives

Iron Clad Test Oath bill, June 5, 1862. Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives

Iron Clad Test Oath bill, June 5, 1862. Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives

Iron Clad Test Oath bill, June 5, 1862. Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the end of the Civil War in 1865, there were almost immediate problems in Congress when former Confederate states returned to the Union. Many of the new members had served the Confederacy and could not take the Iron Clad Test Oath in good faith. In 1868, as the nation was trying to come back together, the law was changed to allow former Confederates to skip the first part of the oath which verified previous loyalty.

In 1884, the Iron Clad Test Oath was repealed. The second part of the oath, which contained a promise of faithful support of the Constitution in the future, remained. This is the oath that federal and state officials take today.

Oath of Office for Daniel K. Inouye, January 9, 1963. Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives. National Archives Identifier: 7741395

Oath of Office for Daniel K. Inouye, January 9, 1963. Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives. National Archives Identifier 7741395

Share these documents with your students, and use these questions to start a class discussion about oaths of office:

  • Before sharing the documents, ask your students to hypothesize about the subject of the very first act of Congress in 1789. To get them thinking about the kind of business Congress had to do, share some examples from the first paragraph above.
  • What is an oath of office? Why do public officials take it?
  • Why would an oath of office act be the first act of Congress?
  • What prompted the change to the oath in 1862? Direct students to research examples of suspected sabotage by public officials from the Civil War.
  • What do students think of the current oath? Would they change it? How? Why?

 

The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225th Anniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents from this formative time via Tumblr, Twitter, and Education Updates. Follow #Congress225 for more documents you can use in your classroom. 

You can see Daniel Inouye’s oath of office and others on display now in “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.



Today’s post comes from Elizabeth Dinschel, education specialist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

As educators, what are some of the ways we can engage history students?  We know they are adaptive learners, so involving them in historic inquiry may be the best way to hook them.  Teaching with artifacts and other primary sources leads students down a path where they feel like detectives on a mission to discover what the primary sources can teach them about history.  This entry will use Edith Galt Wilson’s Worth Suit as an example of how we can use visual literacy and historic context to engage students.

Photograph of Edith Galt Wilson's Worth Suit

What is this?

Does it make a difference if I tell you it belonged to Edith Wilson?

Does it make more of a difference if I tell you it witnessed an important part of American History?

Does it interest you that Edith was a pivotal First Lady for fashion?

Does it interest you if I tell you that she monitored the country’s affairs as a woman who could not vote in America yet while her husband was ill?

These are all rhetorical questions that could get students interested in learning about Mrs. Wilson, WWI, Women, and even fashion.  The array of topics will be enough to catch every student’s attention in the classroom.  The artifact does not even have to be present to make an impact.  A picture to lead off a discussion will be enough.

Let’s explore the questions one by one:

What is this?

This is a Worth Suit.

Does it make a difference if I tell you it belonged to Edith Wilson?

Edith Galt Wilson was First Lady during WWI.  She was the first First Lady to attend foreign diplomatic talks.  She traveled to France and attended the Paris Peace Conference.

Does it make more of a difference if I tell you it witnessed an important part of American History?

She was wearing this suit when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919.  The treaty ended the state of war between the Allied Powers and Germany.  She wrote in My Memoir:

Margaret Wilson and Miss Benham went with me to the Hall of Mirrors where the ceremony was held and, curiously enough, where the German Empire had been proclaimed in 1871.  Four documents were to be signed: the Peace Treaty, the Convention concerning Alsace-Lorraine, the Convention relative to the occupation of the Rhine territory, and the protocol recognizing the independence of Poland…the crowds would no longer be held back; they broke through the cordon of police and surged around the four men.  For a moment the mass came with such force that it was alarming, but, laughing and cheering, those nearest joined hands, making a circle around the statesmen.

Portrait of Edith Bolling Wilson

Does it interest you that Edith was a pivotal First Lady for fashion?

Fashion was very important to Edith.  She wrote in My Memoir about how important fashion was to her.  She wrote about Charles Worth making her clothing.  Charles Worth was a famous clothing designer in Paris.  Edith began to purchase American clothes over French clothing, which started a transitionary period of First Ladies buying American-designed clothing.  First Ladies fashions are important because they teach us about American culture during their own time period and the important role they fill as a partner to their husband, the President.

Does it interest you if I tell you that she monitored the country’s affairs as a woman who could not vote in America yet while her husband was ill?

Edith monitored all of Woodrow Wilson’s affairs following his massive stroke in October 1919. She made so many important decisions that she was called “Mrs. President” by lawmakers.  The legislators were also critical of her “petticoat government.” Actually, it was claimed, that she did not care about politics, but she was very concerned for the health of the man she called “my precious.” After Woodrow Wilson’s death in 1924 (his last word was “Edith!”), his widow remained highly visible in Washington, DC, and in Democratic Party affairs. As late as 1961, she could still refer to her husband’s arch-enemy, Henry Cabot Lodge, as “that stinking snake.”  Despite the important role she played in 1919, women could not even vote until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920.

Photograph of President and Mrs. Wilson

This one artifact can start classroom discussions about WWI, women in the early 1900s, suffrage, the role of material culture in First Ladies History, the importance of First Ladies, the importance of fashion and French imports, and the League of Nations.

Historic inquiry is a foundation on which to build interest for our adaptive learners.  Our students open up Google or Wikipedia to find answers to questions with little or no prompting.  If we, as educators, pose questions and encourage the same type of natural adaptive behaviors, such as looking up answers or asking more questions when given more information, we can spark and hold the interest of students, leading them to use primary sources to draw conclusions and understand the importance of historic context.

If you are interested in more methods for teaching with artifacts, register for “Teaching With Primary Sources: Using Artifacts to Teach History,” an Iowa State License Renewal class with Annette Dunlap and Elizabeth Dinschel at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa.

Special thanks to the President Woodrow Wilson House and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for access to this information and permission to share the images. Visit www.WoodrowWilsonHouse.org to learn more.



On June 24-25, we will offer a new workshop to introduce teachers to the exhibit spaces at the LBJ Library in Austin, TX.

LBJ Interactive Exhibit Screen

In addition to exploring the museum, participants in this two-day workshop will explore how to use primary sources in the classroom, learn pre- and post-visit activities, and get an in-depth look at some prominent topics covered in the exhibits. Teachers will be provided with documents, audio visual assets, and other resources. Texas teachers wishing to receive CEU credits may gain up to 12 hours.

The workshop is free, but seats are limited. Learn more on the LBJ Libary website or register online.

See other professional development opportunities and educational resources from the LBJ Library at www.lbjlibrary.org/education.

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