Blog > Empower students to own their learning

Bringing inclusive history to life with 7 key resources

by Breanna Morsadi and Jenny Landes

Wed Feb 19, 2020

practices tools pbl
800 Words

Dive into 7 essential interactive tools for upper elementary students to make history sense.

For many students, history feels baseless when you spend your time reading from dusty textbooks and learning dates by heart. History’s importance is only made obvious when you can witness its impacts first hand and examine it through a range of progressive tools which allow you to access different narratives. It is important we remember the power of inclusive history, as the act of remembering is a selective process that is often filtered by the storyteller. An inclusive history includes multiple perspectives in which all different voices are heard.

Educators, take a moment to dive into these 7 essential, interactive tools to help your students in upper elementary and above make sense of the past!

#1 Trench Experience VR

This app, compatible with all Apple products, allows students to truly experience living in a World War One trench. This free tool is available on iTunes and is bursting with sights and sounds of the Great War, helping your class envision what it was like to be part of the army just over a century ago. Its complex graphic design is full of intricate details and references — you can ask your students to play a virtual “I Spy” game with you to discover them all.

#2 Classcraft — History

The idea behind Classcraft is to “engage students through the power of games”, a feat they accomplish with beautiful colors, amusing drawings, and a variety of intriguing puzzles. For instance, in Elaine Waters’ “We’re the Mesopotamians”, students experience the history of the ancient civilization through drawings and learn to translate into Cuneiform. Take a look at the Home page to learn more about how it’s done. You’ll find extra help if you scroll down to the “Resources” section as well as the games and quests of the week in the Marketplace.

#3 Smithsonian Learning Lab

The Smithsonian museum is the largest in the world and it’s chosen to share its countless learning gems online through a free interactive platform. Teachers get to pick from millions of resources to create and share their own learning material collections. The National Gallery of Art recently created a collection entitled “Uncovering America: Immigration and Displacement”, which reflects the diversity of the American people. If you’re a K-12 teacher looking to make your history classes more inclusive, immigration is a good place to start to uncover the diversity of American people and cultures.

#4 History View VR

This “3D Virtual Reality Field Trip Program” offers free VR tours of a multitude of historic sites around the world, whether they be museums, art galleries, or heritage sites. Whereas some platforms offer just a couple of free tours, all of HistoryView’s virtual trips are complimentary. What’s more, the website is easy to use and doesn’t require any VR technology — it works just fine on tablets and Chromebooks too.

#5 Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. With rich, diverse and enduring sources of knowledge available, the Library offers vast digital collections for classroom teachers, including their Primary Source Gallery featuring Rosa Parks. Bring African American History and the Civil Rights Movement to life with these immersive exhibits showcasing civil rights legends and their legacies. Primary sources add so much to the credibility and depth of a history project!

#6 Reading Like a Historian

If you’re having a little trouble teaching history, the Stanford History Group is there to help with a boundless array of US and World History lessons. Their curriculum is organized around key historical questions, each lesson featuring primary documents adapted to students with varying reading and comprehension skills. To move away from textbook learning and rote memorization, students are brought to critically evaluate differing perspectives on historical events and make their own justified claims.

#7 Interactive Tour of Ellis Island

This exciting virtual experience created by Scholastic gives your class an opportunity to follow in the immigrants’ footsteps, from the moment they get off the boat up to their integration into American society. Full of historical photographs, captivating facts, personal stories and films, the website abounds with primary sources and evidence of the role Ellis Island played in American history.

Don’t hesitate to use these 7 key resources and others in your classroom if you’re hoping to move away from textbook learning and put students in the shoes of a historian. If you want to bring it up a notch, consider launching an oral history project for which your class conducts research on a topic of their choice and finds historical witnesses to interview, much like Story Corps does. This can easily become a life-changing project-based learning idea that will teach your students the value of listening closely to the voices of the past.

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