Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Exploring Inquiry with the Library of Congress

by Kathy Dorr

Bouvia image2Magic can happen when groups of dedicated educators gather together to share expertise, explore strategies for student success, and build upon the ideas of their peers. Magic did happen during two‐day workshops held this past summer in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Funded by a grant from the Library of Congress, the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program at NCCE offered two levels of professional development free of charge for K‐12 pre‐service and in‐service teachers. Level I introduced participants to the vast resources available at the Library of Congress, the primary source analysis process, and lesson development. Level II expanded on Level I teachings and focused more directly on Barbara Stripling’s Inquiry Model. Both sessions had educators participating in “hands on” activities that included group discussion and time for personal reflection.

One of the many activities during the workshop looked at the San Francisco Earthquake through a motion picture filmed at the time and provided two different newspaper accounts from opposite sides of the country. Participants discussed the issues of perspective and purpose and how a combination of primary sources could enrich and deepen understanding of a historical event.

An additional activity looked at the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and how it violated the mandates of Constitutional Checks and Balances. A close analysis of primary sources explored the perspectives of Andrew Jackson, Chief John Ross, Edward Boudinot, and John G. Burnett as they either supported or challenged the act that lead to the “Trail of Tears”. Participants were to either validate or repudiate the Indian Removal Act by providing evidence of their position based on the primary sources examined.

Bouvia image1Historical thinking skills formed a foundation for many of the activities and discussions that took place during both levels of the TPS program workshops. Using resources from Stanford’s History Education Group, a TPS Consortium member, educators created info graphics that highlighted both the process and the skills needed to assess historical thinking. Info graphics were introduced as an alternate means of assessment as they involve both text and graphic representations of knowledge and understanding.

The TPS program at NCCE workshops are taught by highly‐trained educators with many years of classroom experience. Activities presented are easily adapted to a variety of grade levels and subject areas. Many thanks go out to the teacher‐librarians and classroom teachers who have participated in the various workshops offered as their expertise and insights are greatly appreciated. With funds granted by the Library of Congress through 2014, opportunities to participate in the TPS program at NCCE will be available in the coming year.

For further updates and information on the TPS program at NCCE visit

To learn more about the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program and other resources visit

Resources Cited

Stripling, Barbara. Library of Congress, “Teaching Inquiry with Primary Sources.” Accessed August 4, 2013.

Stanford History Education Group, “Charting the Future of Teaching the Past.” Accessed August 4, 2013.

Kathy Dorr is a Professional Development Specialist at Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE).


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