Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Western Region @ Metropolitan State University of Denver

TPS Western Region Impacts Rural Alaska with Teaching Strategies and Resources

The TPS Western Region awarded a grant to the Bering Strait School District, located in Unalakleet, Alaska. This granting opportunity gathered 19 educators from the school district that spans nearly 80,000 square miles and is almost 100% Alaskan Native Inupiat, Yup’ik and Siberian Yupik Eskimo.

View of Nome, Alaska from workshop venue.

To put the size of 80,000 square miles into perspective, it’s roughly the size of Minnesota. To add to this, most of the schools are only accessible by small bush aircraft because of the lack of roads and vast wilderness. One person had to come by boat due to the high winds.

I like that although we may sometimes seem isolated from the rest of the world, these sources allow us to explore the world around us.

-6th grade teacher, Shishmaref, Alaska

Many of our students lack exposure to what some people take for granted. Having museum type documents available for them to browse is an exciting new experience. 

-Elementary/Middle school teacher, Koyuk, Alaska 

This being an extremely remote and rural part of the United States, professional development programs can be few and far between, especially for social studies. The TPS Regional programs help the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program remain active in communities throughout the United States.

Though remote, Alaska is a place of immense beauty and wonder.

Bering Sea was across the street from the TPS workshop. from the TPS workshop.

The 2-day workshop was titled, Explore, Engage, Create: Integrating TPS Methods and Materials into BSSD Curriculum, and was held on September 23-24, 2017 in Nome, Alaska. The main goal was to provide professional development for educators on how to use the Library of Congress website and provide primary source teaching strategies to be used in their classrooms.  

Both days were filled with Alaskan and other primary sources from the Library of Congress and a multitude of classroom activities and historical thinking, literacy, and inquiry strategies. Teachers in attendance quickly discovered the benefits of primary sources and instructional strategies presented.

The Workshop

You can view the 2-day wiki which includes all of the activities and resources that were used here.

Some of the Strategies Taught

A VoiceThread presentation about the workshop can be viewed here: Alaska TPS workshop.

It is so much fun to touch and ‘do’ history rather than just read someone else’s interpretation. Here students realize history is never a single story, but a mosaic of lives intertwined in a single event.

-High School History Teacher, Savoonga, Alaska 

Another focus of the workshop was to create Annotated Resource Sets (ARS) to help spread primary sources and strategies around all of Alaska K-12 education. These ARSs will be completed soon and shared with the public. This group will be continuing work as a teacher cadre over the next two years meeting regularly in web meetings as they develop, teach, and refine their primary source lesson plans and activities. Check back soon for links to completed ARSs.

Thank you Karen Beranek!

A huge thank you to Karen Beranek and the Bering Strait School District for handling the logistics involved in pulling teachers together from remote locations. The impact and value of taking these strategies, thinking skills, and Library of Congress primary sources to students in Alaska couldn’t have happened without her.   

In all my years as a Social Studies teacher, I have never undergone such an engaging and useful training session. I see the potential uses for primary sources all across our curriculum…I came back to my site and put the process to work the very next day.

-High School History Teacher, White Mountain, Alaska

Karen will be hosting a poster session at the 97th annual National Council for the Social Studies Conference in San Francisco on using TPS strategies for Teaching English Language Learners. TPS poster sessions will be held on Friday, November 17th at the NCSS Conference.

Using primary sources, I believe, will dramatically change the way I teach students of the region. I will be more engaging, provide a ‘hook’ or reason for them to learn the content and even help with the speaking and listening standards. Primary source strategies from TPS allow everyone to participate and can be used across content areas. I am very excited to be part of the TPS grant!

-5th Grade Teacher, St. Michael, Alaska

The Teaching with Primary Sources at MSU Denver Western Region Center is a grant funded through the Library of Congress offering professional development opportunities for K-16 educators. The TPS program serves teachers in all 50 states. Interested in a grant? Click here.

Featured Image: https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsc.01611/

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