Imagine this scenario: Your grandparents have passed on and you've been given control of a box that contains a variety of artifacts from their life. There is a collection of letters with their correspondence during World War II, pictures from a variety of key moments in their lives, and some trinkets that were kept for one reason or another. You are the "keeper of the artifacts."
In 4th grade, your son comes to you and says, "I need to do a report about my grandparents. In my report, I have some questions that I need to answer. Who were they? What was their life like? What were some of their accomplishments in life?" At this point, you have a choice related to what and how your want your son to learn.
- Do you tell your son everything about your grandparents so he can learn about their life? OR
- Do you tell your son bits and pieces about your grandparents and analyze the box of artifacts to see if you can infer a little bit about their lives?
We ask students to construct the history of people, events, ideas, interactions and eras. We use an inquiry approach to the learning, which involves creating questions with students or providing some key guiding questions. We guide students to use secondary sources to gather ideas and evidence that will support answering these questions. Most importantly, we involve students in the critical thinking process of analyzing a variety of primary sources connected to the learning. We involve students in analyzing the artifacts. Through the process of analysis, students gather additional evidence about people, events, ideas, interactions and eras. In this way, students are using multiple sources (primary AND secondary) to construct history.