Greater Boston Education Reports

Teaching History
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The average student can certainly identify the figures of the Constitutional Convention, but not the slaves whose status was essentially left in limbo there. Likewise students are familiar with founding father, John Adams, but less so with his influential founding partner, Abigail. So it's time, say educators, for a little revisionist history. Enter primary sources like an original Native American map of Virginia, the autobiography of a freed slave and colonial advertisements, just to name a few. All brought to the classroom courtesy of Primary Source in Watertown.

Primary Source co-founder Anna Roelofs says, "It brings people alive. It makes you have a reason to learn about (history) because somehow you see that people who went through that were not much different from yourself." Just ask the educators at Brockton High School. For six years now, Brockton has teamed up with Primary Source. As a result curricula have been revamped to incorporate primary source materials. "Students come across a lot of personal growth and they realize that they have opinions or reactions to written material that they never had before," says Brockton High's history department head, Willie Wilson. "It grabs them and that's what history is all about."

It is also the goal of Primary Source to present students with a more holistic view of history by including underrepresented voices like Native Americans, African Americans and women. For those teachers instructing students who are not descendents of white Europeans, they find that a well-rounded approach to history engages students even more. History teacher Edward Walsh says student performance is now "far superior" than in years past. None of which comes as a surprise to Roelofs, who says historically, teachers have felt a bit cheated themselves. They feel deprived when working with primary sources, she says. They "want to go back to school."