Alaska's Gold uses historic primary source material to help students learn about the Alaska gold rush.
In this website we define historic primary source material as letters, diaries, maps, promotional brochures, government records, documents and things people used in their everyday lives. Primary sources are actual records that have survived from the past. People who witnessed or were directly involved in an event created them.
Historic secondary sources (published books, newspapers) are also included in the web-based activities to help tell parts of the story. Secondary sources are accounts of the past created by people who were not present at an event or who were separated from the event by time.
Primary source materials expose students to many points of view on important issues of the past and present. Students become involved in interpreting the past when they have the opportunity to read historic documents. Reading primary source material is challenging however with guidance it develops knowledge, skills and analytical abilities. Many students are unfamiliar with primary source materials but will become effective readers when they've had an opportunity to be guided through basic skills.
The National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress have developed excellent sites especially for educators with teacher materials and student lessons that use on-line primary source collections.
Go to the American Memory website and select Learning and Lesson Ideas. This lesson introduces students to primary sources -- what they are, their great variety, and how they can be analyzed. The lesson begins with an activity that helps students understand the historical record. Students learn techniques for analyzing primary sources. Students then apply these techniques to analyze documents about slavery in the United States.
Go to the National Archives and Records Administration: The Digital Classroom and select Document Analysis Worksheets. Generic worksheets that help students analyze primary sources can be downloaded. Guides are available for Written Documents, Photographs, Maps, Political Cartoons, Posters and Advertisements.