Welcome to the Teaching California Beta Website!

The California Historical Society (CHS) and our partners at the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) are excited to announce the launch the beta website for Teaching California, which provides free and flexible resources for teaching California’s History-Social Science Framework. Over the past year we have worked on developing the first set of grade-level instructional content for K-12 teachers, and building this website as a way of making that content more accessible to teachers and educators across the state. Here are some FAQs to get you started:

What materials do you currently have available on the website?

For those visiting the website upon launch in August 2019, they will find two sets of instructional materials per grade for K-12, which we are calling Inquiry Sets (the exception is Grade 4, where we have three Sets focused on the Missions and one on the Gold Rush, for a total of four). Each Set is designed to align with California’s History Social-Science Framework, which itself integrates both statewide standards for History-Social Science and English Language Development. Read more about our Inquiry Sets here

Throughout the remainder of 2019 and into 2020, we will continue to add additional grade-level Inquiry Sets on an incremental basis. These will cover additional content standards, and will include new sets of curated (and free to access!) primary sources.

Thumbnail collage of select primary sources used in Teaching California.
A sample of some of the primary sources that we currently have available for access on the website, including from the California Historical Society, US National Archives and Records Administration, and the Oakland Museum of California.

Do I have to be a teacher to use the Teaching California website?

No. While we have designed the content and features in Teaching California with K-12 teachers in mind (and by extension, their students), it is open to learners of all ages, for school or personal use. 

How can I use this website?

Teaching California is a dynamic website where K-12 teachers and other educators can discover, share, and adapt resources aligned with California’s new History-Social Science Framework.

Users will be able to:

  • Browse and download Inquiry Sets: collections of relevant primary sources, excerpted by grade-level, along with teaching resources and at least one strategy designed to improve student reading, writing, and / or oral discourse ability.
  • Search for Inquiry Sets and digitized primary sources, by grade and topic.
  • Review the History-Social Science Framework, as well as three sets of California Content Standards by grade level.
  • Share Inquiry Sets and individual sources with fellow educators and learners.
  • Read about new Teaching California project developments and other education news, including opportunities for participating in online and in-person learning experiences around Teaching California content.
Screenshot of Chapter 3 (for Kindergarten) on teachingcalifornia.org.
While browsing grade-level chapters of the Framework, users can discover Inquiry Sets aligned with that particular grade.

Where do the primary sources included in the project come from?

We have a wonderful opportunity with this project to include primary sources from repositories across California and the United States, to serve as the focus of our instruction and inquiry. These are sources from public libraries, university libraries, museums, archives, state parks, and other cultural institutions who have rich and often rarely-explored collections of historical materials. See a current list of who has contributed material to this project on our About page.

In addition, as leaders of the project, CHS is able to spotlight, and in some cases digitize, parts of its collections for inclusion in Teaching California. This includes fascinating items such as a letter written on a shirt collar during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (included for Grade 2), Charlotte Brown’s plea to the court against Omnibus Railroad Company (included for Grade 12 Government), and a stunning group portrait of nine miners during the Gold Rush (included for Grade 7).

Group portrait of nine miners, all men. Four men stand at back, five men sit at front. Man at front right holds a book; two men sitting at front hold mining equipment, including a shovel.
“[Group of miners], circa 1850s.” Photograph. California Historical Society, Group of miners, 1849-1860, DAG 9G.

If you would like to explore more California history collections currently digitized and online, please visit our Digital Library


We are hard at work producing new materials to address additional grade-level standards, which will tentatively be available late fall of 2019. Stay up to date with our News for more information on when these rollouts will be happening.

As the Teaching California Project Manager, I would like to thank our hard-working and fantastic team at CHS, as well as our content development partners at CHSSP, who provide their expertise in history instruction and as the primary authors of the Framework. Thank you to Navigation North for the creative vision and education expertise they brought to developing this website, and to the repositories, contributors, and funders who helped make this all possible. Please see more on our Acknowledgements page.

If you have more questions about Teaching California, please contact teachingcalifornia@calhist.org

Uncovering Remarkable Documents in Teaching California

Diary entry of Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada at Monterey on October 3, 1774; Fernando Rivera y Moncada diary, 1774-1777, MS Vault 48; California Historical Society.

The California Historical Society often relies on scholars in the field to illuminate new areas of collection and research. When exploring primary sources for our new Teaching California project, we came across two remarkable documents from our manuscripts collection that will soon be incorporated into our growing set of K-12 instructional materials. The first, a Spanish diary entry from California’s Mission period, and the second, a Chinese newspaper published in San Francisco shortly after the Gold Rush, both offer an insight into the daily lives of those living and working in two significant periods of California’s history. Below, we hear briefly from the two scholars who helped us translate these documents, including why these particular sources are important to them. 

The first document, highlighted for fourth graders studying the Mission period, is one of many brief, daily entries by Rivera y Moncada, the Spanish military commandant of Alta California, 1774-1777. Written a few years after the second Franciscan mission and presidio in the Californias was established in present-day Monterey county, the diary includes a list of soldiers, craftsmen, and other non-native people living in California at the time. 

Rose Marie Beebe, Professor of Spanish based at Santa Clara University, California, undertook the translation of the 18th century Spanish-language document. She wrote about the entry’s significance: 

“On October 3, 1774, Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, commander of the Monterey Presidio, reported that the native peoples had started a large fire to the west of the fort. He knew what they were doing: “They set fire to the field so that new growth will sprout up from the ashes.” Yet a number of soldiers went out to extinguish the fire. They did so, Rivera wrote “to preserve the Fields.”

Rivera’s remarks dramatically highlighted the different forms of food production that were present in colonial Alta California. The Spanish introduced European-style agriculture and were concerned that the crops that they had introduced into the region would not be able to grow in a charred landscape. The indigenous people, however, had lived for centuries from the food provided by the natural environment. They understood that fire was an important means of rejuvenating the soil that produced the fruits, berries, acorns, and other sustenance on which both they and the other living creatures with which they shared the California environment depended. Europeans were quickly exposed to this indigenous method of resource management. For example, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed into San Pedro Bay in 1542 and was greeted by thick fires onshore, causing him to name the place La BahIa de los Humos– the Bay of Smoke. He may well have been witnessing a series of controlled burns. As contemporary scholar M. Kat Anderson has written, “Fire was the most significant, effective, efficient, and widely employed vegetation management tool of California Indian tribes.” (M. Kat Anderson, Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 136). Rivera’s diary demonstrated that over 200 years later, Europeans in California still did not fully understand the ecological wisdom that was an essential part of the indigenous Californians’ way of life.”

Below is Beebe’s English translation of the Moncada’s diary entry:

October 1 Señor don Juan Soler: Have three fanegas1 of beans and eight of corn sent tothe escolta2 at San Antonio. Because they have run out of lard and meat, send them the same amount of rations of ham given to the men here, that is, five ounces per ration. With regard to the cost [of the food] and the sacks [for transporting the food], you and the corporals can come to an agreement on that.And, if you should deem it necessary to notify me about any issue, I shall not hesitate to intervene in whatever manner is most appropriate. Monterey, October 1, 1774. Rivera

[October] 2 Sunday             Nothing to report.

[October] 3       A large fire was set west of us. It was burning the countryside and was drawing closer to the presidio. Soldiers, young men, and even I, went out and managed to extinguish the fire, not because the homes were at risk, but rather to preserve the fields. The gentiles3 have a bad habit of creating this kind of work for us. After their seeds have all been gathered and because they have no animals to take care of, their main concern is their bellies. They set fire to the fields so that new growth will sprout up from the ashes. It is also a way to catch rabbits that are trying to escape from the dense smoke.

1 One fanega is equivalent to about 1.6 bushels.
2 The escort or squad of soldiers assigned to protect a missionary at a mission.
3 Non-baptized Indians.

The Golden Hills News. May 27, 1854. California Historical Society, Chinese in California Virtual Collection, Newspaper Collection, Box 2. 

For seventh graders, Teaching California authors chose this Chinese newspaper from our collections for an inquiry set exploring San Francisco as a Site of Encounter. The front page of the May 27, 1854 edition of the Golden Hills News features both Cantonese language characters and one column of English text. The publisher’s welcome note in English reads: “Merchants, Manufacturers, Miners, and Agriculturists, come forward as friends, not scorners of the Chinese, so that they may mingle in the march of the world, and help to open America an endless vista of future commerce.”

Roland Hui, an independent historian based in San Francisco who helped with the English translation, had this to say about this special document: 

“The Golden Hills’ News is a very special newspaper. In the words of the famed historian Him Mark Lai, it was the first Chinese-language weekly in the world that embodied all the ingredients of a modern newspaper. And for me to play a part in sharing this treasure with a wider audience is extremely gratifying. In doing the translation, I had a fun time trying to figure out the original English names of places, people, and ships from which the Chinese versions were transliterated. The contemporary issues of the Daily Alta California helped me ascertain most of them. For those few that I could not find any reference, it will be hilarious to know how widely I missed the target.”

Below is an excerpt from Hui’s English translation of the Chinese portion of the newspaper:

[Front page, Purpose of the Newspaper] The purpose of publishing a newspaper is to promote commerce, provide knowledge, convey public sentiments, and communicate government regulations. Now, California is the meeting place of people from all over the world, and various countries have published their own newspapers except the Chinese. Therefore, although there are many Chinese merchants, they lack the skills to run their businesses, have limited general knowledge, and are powerless to make decisions. They do not fully understand business conditions, and are easily manipulated by tricksters; they are ignorant of government regulations, and are bullied by those with evil intensions. It is a pity that they, despite having years of experience, are struggling in their business and facing so many obstacles. This has prompted me to start this Golden Hills’ News, and use the Chinese language to describe daily happenings about Chinese and American business and government and legal affairs. It will be published every Saturday, so that people will know what is going on. If you have business news, we can advertise it here. That way, business will flourish, knowledge will expand, public sentiments will be felt, and government regulations will be understood; and to the Chinese this is by no means a small benefit. – Mr. Howard 

Food prices: 

Coffee: 18¢ per pound 

Fine salted pork: $27/per large barrel 

Medium salted pork: $22, $23 per barrel 

Fine salted beef: $18, $20 per large barrel 

Medium salted beef: $20 per barrel 

Fine ham: 20¢ per pound 

Fine bacon: 15¢, 16¢ per pound 

Manilla fine sugar: 7¢, 8¢ per pound 

Lard: 15¢, 16¢ per pound 

Fine Chinese sugar: 9¢ per pound 

Second-rate Chinese sugar: 8¢ per pound 

Fine black tea: 50¢, 55¢ per pound 

American fine sugar: 12.5¢ per pound 

Chinese rice: 5¢, 6¢, 6.25¢ per pound 

Carolina Rice: 6¢ per pound 

Manilla rice: 3¢, 3.5¢ per pound 

In this city, barbarians of different nationalities bully the Chinese too much. From now on, if a Chinese is harassed, beaten, or cheated, he can report it to Mr. Howard so an English notice can be translated and sent to all countries. Chinese do not have to suffer mistreatments in silence. Mr. Howard is located at 163 Clay Street, upstairs. 

People from different countries who come to America and wish to become Americans can first go to court and take an oath. The court will issue a paper which can be renewed every two years. With that they can go to the hills to dig gold and do other things without having to pay for a license. If you wish to learn more, please visit Mr. Howard upstairs for a more detailed discussion.

… 

Our Teaching California collections team has been busy researching and preparing documents like these over the past year, including working with our partners at the California History-Social Science Project to carefully incorporate over 60 primary sources from our collections into the project’s instructional materials.

Excitingly, we are creating newly-digitized copies of these primary sources for inclusion in Teaching California, and teachers will find these documents and more when as we launch and continue to develop the project website In the meantime, visit teachingcalifornia.org for more details about the project, and follow along here on our blog for more updates. We look forward to uncovering more stories as we dig deeper into the primary sources in our collections!

The California Historical Society is working in partnership with the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) at UC Davis to establish and implement Teaching California: a free and expansive online set of instructional materials to support the State’s new K-12 History-Social Science Framework. This post comes from Kerri Young, Teaching California Project Manager. You can reach out to her at kyoung@calhist.org

Teaching the Honest and Troubling History of Native California

Native Americans on Alcatraz Island during the 1969-1971 occupation to reclaim native land.  Photograph courtesy of the California Historical Society.

This blog is reposted from the California History-Social Science Project’s blog. The original post can be found here. 


Editor’s Note: As we travel around California, one of the most frequent concerns we hear from teachers is that they don’t feel prepared to teach students about the history of California Indians. Elementary teachers have explained that they don’t know enough about pre-contact California, especially the history of indigenous people in their local area. Eighth-grade teachers reflect that their current resources are incomplete and don’t fully document the perspective of native peoples during the 19th Century. And high school teachers often remark they don’t have anything on native history after 1900. We’ve heard these concerns and in response, we’ve brought together a new team of scholars and members of native communities to design a workshop specifically focused on teaching the history of California Indians. Historians Shelley Brooks and Michelle Lorimer will lead the workshop, aided by the important scholarly contributions of Benjamin Madley, Steven Hackel, Clifford Trafzer, Khal Schneider, and Gregg Castro. This workshop will debut at our new Framework Conference series, which starts on September 10 at UC Irvine. Read below for a special blog post about the workshop, and learn more about the Framework Conference series here.

In West Sacramento last month, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to apologize for California’s treatment of its Native population. As the governor explained, “That’s what it was, a genocide. No other way to describe it. And that’s the way it needs to be described in the history books.” In our new workshop, “Highlighting Native Californian History through the Framework,” we hope to guide teachers through this important, honest, and troubling investigation of California’s history.
California’s History-Social Science Framework calls for more complex examinations of California Indian history across grade levels and time periods. Our workshop will focus on ways to incorporate the history and culture of Native Californian peoples into lessons at both primary and secondary levels. Lessons that explore California Indian history provide teachers with unique opportunities to connect students with local history and contemporary Native communities that, historically, have been frequently misrepresented and not consulted in public representations of their groups.

Teaching about the history of California Indians also allows students to explore interdisciplinary themes that span the various fields of social and behavioral sciences, including history, geography, economics, civics (political science), anthropology, religious studies, and psychology. Investigations that focus on the lives of Native Californians both before and after foreign contact highlight important historical thinking strategies. Students learn to understand diverse perspectives, evaluate historical evidence, recognize continuity and change, assess cause and consequence, and unpack ethical considerations of the past.

We will investigate the experiences of Native peoples during transitional times in California’s history—guided by the major instructional shifts in the Framework. We will use inquiry to investigate primary source content from pre-contact, the California mission era, the Gold Rush, and the modern civil rights era. Teachers will receive classroom-ready materials for grades 3 (local history), 4 (California history), 8 (19th-century U.S. history), 10 (modern world history), 11 (modern U.S. history), and 12 (government). Many of these resources will come from our partnership with the California Historical Society and our shared Teaching California project, which will debut later this year.


Written by Michelle Lorimer, Ph.D., an historian and lecturer at California State University, San Bernardino, Shelley Brooks, Ph.D., and Beth Slutsky, Ph.D., who are both Program Coordinators at the California History-Social Science Project.

Children’s Voices from the Archives: Remembering the 1906 Earthquake and Fire

This post spotlights a primary source digitized from the California Historical Society’s collections for Teaching California, a letter written by 12-year-old Elsie Cross during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. You can now view this source in the Grade 2 Inquiry Set “Why Do People Move?”


The 1906 earthquake and fire was a defining moment in San Francisco history. It was a disaster that changed the city’s social, economic, and cultural fabric, and to this day we often think of its history as divided into pre-earthquake and post-earthquake eras.

Photography, including the technology to produce outdoor shots, was gaining popularity by 1906, and the California Historical Society is fortunate to have a number of surviving images that document both the destruction and reconstruction of the city. Of equal importance are surviving personal diaries, journals, and letters that describe how residents coped with the aftermath of the disaster. One such document is the correspondence of Elsie Cross, a 12-year-old girl living in the Western Addition of San Francisco when, on April 18th 1906 at 5:12 a.m., an earthquake of massive force shook the city. Two letters to her friend Ruth, dated May 17-18 and May 28, give us a rarely explored child’s perspective of this event. The letters provide a firsthand account of the quake itself, the family’s escape from the house to the Sunset, and their eventual relocation to Oakland

Elsie’s description of the earthquake is notably poetic: “Things fell right & left, brick-a-brack flew around, furniture danced a jig,” and her strength and sense of humor shines through: “My brother could not stand so my brother had to hold him and, Ruth, I laughed when it knocked our beautiful Regina down and it played “Whistling Rufus” all the way through the earthquake.”

Through her words, however, the reader can also sense the fear and worry of Elsie’s parents as they flee, holding their children tight, wondering if the fire will reach them or if the earth will shake again:

“Wednesday afternoon with a few blankets, a canvas, and an eiderdown we went way out in the Sunset where the fire could never reach & slept part of the night on the front doorsteps. It was bright as day & you could have read a book in the house it was so light. About ten o’clock, the fire having died down, my brother & I both slept on one side of my mother. Both my mother & father did not sleep. The next day in the morning my mother & father & I packed in a steamer trunk old family laces, miniatures, & clothing. In the afternoon my father drove us in his buggy & we put the silver, jewelry, family pictures, & blankets in & went out into the Sunset…I felt very sorry to leave this and my piano, but as nothing else could be done I did not say anything.”

Elsie Cross’s letters and other earthquake material can be accessed at the North Baker Research Library at the California Historical Society during public hours, Wednesday through Friday from 1PM to 5PM. Full transcript below. Additional photos of the 1906 earthquake and fire can be viewed on CHS’s digital library.


Oakland, May 11, 1906

Dear Ruth,

As you will see by the heading I am no longer in Frisco. I received your parcel the week after that “gentle zepher” struck us. Ahem! Ahem!!! Wednesday morning I was awakened by a slight shaking. Now as earthquakes are usually gentle and mild I waited for it to pass away. Instead of that it began to wrench & by that time I was in my door way. (That being considered the safest place). Then it began to go just up & down as a cat shakes a rat and I (thinking the world was coming to an end) said a prayer & waited for results. I saw my father in the front room try to get to my mother and also saw him thrown twice across the floor. I could see my mother & brother standing in their doorway. My brother could not stand so my mother had to hold him. And, Ruth, I laughed when it knocked our beautiful Regina down and it played “Whistling Rufus” all through the earthquake. Our chimney went through to the basement, my [ ] was thrown on my table and the drawers & their contents thrown on the floor. Things fell right & left, brick-a-brack flew around, and [ ]  danced a jig. As soon as it was over (& it only lasted (? ) 48 seconds…

[page 2] …my father told us to dress as quick as we could and if another shake came to finish in the street. Continued as I have to go downtown to get a Pineapple Smash & a library book. See “World [ ] Illustrations of Shock”

CONTINUED

May 18, ‘06 After we got out of the house my father said that the only trouble now, was fire. All that day there were shocks and the sun was a ball of purply red from the smoke. It was very hot. You could hear building after building being blasted. People passed in all kinds of wagons and some on foot with what possessions they could take. I forgot to tell you that a house across the street was moved over 9 ft. and the house next to that went down into the earth 10 ft. I will send you the pictures my father took of them and also some other places. Wednesday afternoon with a few blankets, * a canvas & a eiderdown we went way out in the Sunset where the fire could never reach and slept part of the night on the front doorsteps. It was as bright as day and you could have read a book in the house it was so light. About ten o’clock, the fire having

[page 3] died down after & Ill my brother and I each slept on one side of my mother. Both my mother and father did not sleep. The next day in the morning my mother and I packed in a steamer trunk old family laces, miniatures, and clothing. In the afternoon my father drove up in his buggy and we put the silver, jewelry, family pictures, & blankets in & went out in to the Sunset. My room is all old fashioned furniture of mahogany and my wall, bedspread, and other trimming is old rose. I felt very sorry to leave this & my piano, but as nothing else could be done I did not say anything.  Where we went was out by the park, & the place was a grocery store & saloon. They had their own cow and chickens and also liquors & grocery provisions, the latter being stored in the house. There were 4 little children and a baby one month old. The first night we slept outdoors and they did not stop blasting when night came on but blasted all through the night.  In the morning I was awakened by a dreadfully loud blast and heard my mother say that she had watched the fire all night and it was now, she thought, under control.

— Written and transcribed by Frances Kaplan, Reference Librarian at California Historical Society.

Citation: Elsie H. Cross letters to Ruth, Oakland, California, May 17-28, 1906; MS 3469; California Historical Society https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_662352https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/events/1906calif/virtualtour/earthquake.php

On the Road: California Council for the Social Studies in San Jose, 2019

Man’s shirt collar inscribed with letter from James Graves Jones to Mr. and Mrs. Wayland Edgar Jones, 1906. Artifacts Fine Arts Collection; California Historical Society. We’ve included this source in one of our Teaching California lessons, called “Inquiry Sets,” for the second grade.

On March 15th, California Historical Society (CHS) Reference Librarian Frances Kaplan and I traveled to the annual California Council for the Social Studies (CCSS) conference to promote CHS’s new curriculum project, Teaching California. Each year, the CCSS conference aims to deliver professional development for educators focused on new scholarship, research-based strategies, and networking — all designed to improve the teaching and learning of history/social studies across the state. Held this year in San Jose, CCSS 2019 was filled to the brim with presentations, workshops, and exhibitors, and was well-attended by educators from across the state.

Shelley Brooks, California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) Program Coordinator, previewing student and teacher resources found in Teaching California’s instructional materials in PowerPoint
Shelley Brooks, California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) Program Coordinator, previewing student and teacher resources found in Teaching California’s instructional materials focused on the California Missions (taught in 4th grade).

Frances and I presented at two separate sessions (one aimed at the elementary school-level and one at the high school-level), each together with members of our Teaching California curriculum partners at the California History-Social Science Project. In these sessions, titled “Teaching CA: Bringing Archives into the Classroom,” we introduced teachers and administrators to our project, a joint collaboration between archivists, librarians, educators, and subject specialists.

Our goal is to empower teachers to engage in inquiry instruction that is aligned to California’s History-Social Science Framework. In both sessions, teachers practiced the historical investigation process and, excitingly, previewed some of the inquiry-based lessons (and primary sources!) that we are creating for the project. Here are more scenes from our sessions:

Tuyen Tran, Assistant Director of CHSSP, going over the basics of California’s new History-Social Science Framework in a PowerPoint presentation.
Tuyen Tran, Assistant Director of CHSSP, going over the basics of California’s new History-Social Science Framework. Teaching California will create Framework-aligned materials that will aid in school and classroom implementation.
Elementary school teachers review drafts of Teaching California’s second-grade instructional materials, which includes never-before-seen objects and photographs from CHS’s collections.
https://twitter.com/WendyLRouse/status/1106607446133399552

To view the slides for one of our CCSS sessions on Teaching California, visit this link.


This post comes from Kerri Young, Teaching California Project Manager. You can reach out to her at kyoung@calhist.org

Reading Pictures

[Picking Oranges at Santa Ana, circa 1890s]; General Subjects Photograph Collection-Agriculture; California Historical Society.


“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye and more. Stare, pry, listen, eaves-drop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

—Walker Evans, ca. 1960

Looking is hard work. For many of us, sight is the most obvious tool we use to experience our world; it feels easy, automatic, almost like breathing. But to look—to take time, to probe, to take seriously the ways in which images shape our worldview—is a different matter.

As children, we are taught to read words when we are only a few years old. And yet, modern technologies make it so that we are increasingly inundated by pictures more than text, be it on our screens, in print media, as family photographs, or as advertisements. Moving through the world, it is tempting to merely glance at the pictures we encounter, letting them coalesce into a sort of landscape or wave that washes over us and passes us by. But pictures are made by people, and so often convey the ideals, biases, and political views of their makers. However subconsciously, the images that we see every day combine to shape our own biases and political views. “What you see often becomes a part of your memory,” explains Ana-Christina Ramón, the assistant director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, “and thus a part of your life experience.”

When we look closely and think about what we see, it allows us to be less immediately manipulated by the visual rhetoric of the media that we consume. But as with any good book, reading images closely can bring us an immense sense of pleasure and empathy. Imagine standing in front of your favorite painting, and taking the time to think about what emotions or forms its brush strokes evoke. Try to imagine what the artist was thinking and feeling when she put the brush to canvas, and where she was standing; think about what the painting conveys about the era or place in which it was made. With these thoughts, we do not lose sight of the work’s initial beauty. Rather, we can take in this beauty, or pain, or anger and confusion, while also asking ourselves what it is that allows the art to make us feel so strongly. We can come to the work with a sense of humility, but also thoughtfully.

I’m going to walk you through some questions I ask myself when I first look at a photograph, painting, or illustration, in the hopes that you will continue to look closely at the pictures that you encounter—be it in the museum, or on your phone’s screen. For example: 

Four girls standing in front of a Buddist temple on Terminal Way, Terminal Island, Los Angeles
[Buddhist temple, Terminal Way, Terminal Island, Los Angeles, 1932-33]; by Anton Wagner, CHS, PC 017

First, take a minute or two to really look closely at every part of the photograph. What do you see? I find it helpful to speak out loud, or at least to organize my thoughts into coherent sentences so that I don’t miss anything; language helps me to process what I’m seeing. No observation is too small or too obvious. In this photograph, I see four little girls standing on a dirt road. The girls stand in front of two buildings, one built in a mid-century American ranch style, and the other built in an Asian architectural style and surrounded by a fence with an elaborate entryway. On the left hand side of the image, I see a large white water tower on big metal stilts. On the right, a tree leans into the frame. The trees, combined with the fluttering of the girls’ hair and coats, suggest that it was windy out that day. There are statues in the garden behind the fence, and telephone poles in the distance. In fact, one telephone pole leads my eye to another building that I didn’t initially see.

What is the image made of? This work is obviously a photograph; knowing what I know about photography, I know that it is a black and white gelatin silver print. This information can help me to determine when the image was made: gelatin silver prints were most commonly made between 1900-2000, which is a fairly broad range, though we have other context clues to help us determine the date, such as clothing and architecture styles. If I can hold the image, I like to think about who else might have held it, and why, and how it might have circulated or traveled. This photograph could have been a family photograph, or a journalist’s image, or a photograph made by a documentarian. Maybe it was stored in an album, or printed in the newspaper.

If I’m looking at a photograph, I ask myself where the photographer was standing when they took the picture, and why. In this case, the answer is not particularly complicated: the photographer is standing in the road, and photographs the children from an angle. But this simple observation can actually tell something about the photographer’s intentions. Why didn’t they take the photograph head on, and from a closer vantage? What does the angle afford us that a more direct composition would lose? And what do we lose from this perspective?

However simple, the last question can tell me so much about this picture and the person who made it. I can guess that because the photograph is not a close up view of these children’s faces, it was composed specifically to show them in the context of their surroundings. Rather than frame the image so that we can only see the Asian-style building, however, the photographer chose to juxtapose it against the adjacent ranch-style house and water tower, both of which suggest to me that the photograph was taken in the United States. This isn’t a close up portrait of four children; it’s a photograph of four children shown living in a diverse neighborhood, likely in the United States. Their clothing and the architecture surrounding them suggest that this photograph was made before or during World War II. They look like they are of Japanese descent, which makes me wonder if they were impacted by Executive Order 9066. I think about the immigrant experience in the United States, now and throughout this country’s history; I think about my grandfather who was detained by the United States government during World War II because he was an Italian immigrant, and how he never told his children, or spoke Italian in their presence.

You can see here how an unassuming image without any text or caption can still say so much.

I’ll show my hand, which is that we are fortunate to have some information about this photograph. The photograph is titled [Buddhist temple, Terminal Way, Terminal Island, Los Angeles, 1932-33], and was taken by the German photographer Anton Wagner. As an art historian, I’m lucky when I have this much information to go off of: knowing the photographer allows me to probe deeper into his background and intentions, and the title can tell me so much, not least the fact that the building shown is a Buddhist temple, and that the photograph was taken ca. 1932-33 on Terminal Island—a Japanese American fishing community that, as it happens, was the first to be evacuated following Executive Order 9066. But I believe that pictures can tell us so much more than any caption can.

My last piece of advice is to try to look with a close but curious eye. Pictures do not exist solely as a record of the past, or as a container of information and data. A picture is not a question to be answered; we do not look so that we can be “right.” We look because photographs and works of art have things to tell us about what it felt like to live in an earlier time, and about how we relate to people with whom we have seemingly little in common—be it these four little girls, or a painter, or a sculptor living in Athens in 500 BCE. They allow us to admit just how much we don’t know, and to feel vulnerable when they elicit emotion. I believe that looking closely at pictures make us more human, in increasingly technological times.


Written by Natalie Pellolio, Assistant Curator at California Historical Society

Digital Curriculum Educator Survey Results from the Teaching California project

With a summer 2019 launch on the horizon, the California Historical Society (CHS) is continuing work on the Teaching California website initiative, which will provide California classroom teachers and students with curriculum and primary sources tied to the state’s recently adopted History-Social Science Framework.

Our team has the pleasure of working with the education-focused-web development firm Navigation North, who have been helping CHS think through how to build an experience around the grade-level instructional materials we are creating with our partners at the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP), called “Inquiry Sets.” An initial piece of research that helped us explore this was a Digital Curriculum Needs Survey, which Navigation North created and CHSSP and CHS distributed to teachers late last year.

This survey sought to find out how teachers, and particularly History-Social Science teachers, are currently searching for curriculum materials online, what their level of proficiency with technology is both in and out of the classroom, and the variety of materials they are looking for online. Thanks to CHSSP’s extensive teacher network, we were able to collect responses from more than 300 educators! The chart below exhibits the categories of teachers who responded:

The results were a revealing look the current relationship that teachers have with online resources in the classroom.

Above, the results show that personal use of technology outpaces professional use, meaning that strong adoption of technology in teachers’ personal lives does not necessarily transfer over into their professional processes.

Here are some other high-level takeaways from the survey:

Mostly Veteran, Secondary Teachers
Over 50% of respondents are long-time instructors (+57% = +15 years experience), teaching in single-subject assignments at public middle / high schools (+78%).

Most Believe in the Instructional Value of Teacher Technology Use
Over 80% of respondents claim that technology as an instructional planning, delivery, and differentiation tool translates to High or Considerably High Instructional Value. Over 95% claim technology can/does help them provide more diverse learning materials and, in turn, diversify their teaching for improved outcomes.

Little Professional Support and Coordination
Most teachers (+88%) work in schools where there is little/no planning and sharing on effective use of technology in the classroom. And most (+77%) say they are expected to learn new technologies on their own outside of school hours.

Student Use of the Internet Has Benefits, but Requires More Work for the Teacher
Overall, respondents cited higher levels of motivation, collaboration, and student work products when using the Internet. These benefits are coupled with more teacher work to monitor for plagiarism and use of unreliable sources, yet, +73% feel that student access to the internet does NOT result in increased discipline issues.

Teachers Regularly Turn to the Internet for Curriculum
+79% search for online curricular resources several times a week or more for their classrooms.

Teachers Are Looking for A Variety of Curricular Resources and Like to Use Search Terms
From worksheets to assessments and lesson plans to primary sources and media, teachers are looking for everything but use open search terms far more than standards, frameworks, or topic lists.

For a full summary of the results, please go here.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Teaching California project on our blog!

Visual Prototyping Helps Guide a Team in Unlocking California’s History for Classrooms Across the State

Recently, the California Historical Society had the pleasure of bringing on Navigation North as the firm that will help develop the website for our new Teaching California initiative. This future website will serve as a portal that provides classroom-ready curriculum designed to engage students in inspiring investigations of the past. Navigation North’s team of educators and developers work with technology to re-imagine and re-design:

  • How teachers can be better supported in their practice
  • How student learning, in and out of class, can be improved
  • How education systems can be more readily adopted to integrate innovation

The following blog is written by Brian Ausland, Navigation North’s principal researcher and systems design lead. He has worked in the field of education for 19 years and serves as the intermediary between the technology and learning communities he supports. He brings his classroom experience and teaching perspectives central to all systems, projects, and approaches.


Navigation North traveled to San Francisco to do some early-stage visual prototyping with the California Historical Society team. In the heart of the CHS research center, amongst transitioning exhibitions, offices bustling with varied expertise and passion, and a blend of artwork and manuscripts that shape the history of the Golden State, a small room was set aside for a day of thinking and dreaming.

On the horizon for this team, is a new and vibrant site being prepared for California classroom teachers and students that will help provide key curriculum and resources tied to California’s new History – Social Science Framework.

With an audience of primary source specialists, curators, digital archivists and manuscript librarians, Navigation North led a reflective review of key findings around effective, research-based digital curriculum. Teams were then provided a chance to dream, design, and create. But first, we turned off the laptops, silenced our phones and broke out the crafts.

Staff from California Historical Society reviewing ideas for the Teaching California website.

What was a respectable meeting room adorned with handsome, historical portraits from California’s past, became a free-for-all of poster paper, markers, yarn, crayons, sample artifacts, clothes pins, pipe cleaner, clay, common interface buttons, scissors, tape, and glue. With some guidance, discussions began on the topic of intentions, values, and calibration around common desired outcomes. Team members reviewed findings on teachers’ use of digital curriculum and reflected on the value of primary sources as keys to unlocking history, then engaged in creating prototype models that blended all of the above.

Once complete, participating team members posted their visual prototypes where their colleagues could make inquiries about their designs, discuss features, and proposed ways to help teachers and students, “analyze the primary source for its story”. Participants were asked to identify their favorite elements of each other’s designs. Navigation North staff recorded the data, captured pictures, and carefully collected all the resulting work items to bring back for further analysis and compilation of findings.

As part of the Discovery Process, this was a simple first step towards helping diverse team members construct a more comprehensive and shared conceptual approach to a robust, digital, curricular resource. With additional steps pending, we were happy to see the team readily dig-in and engage the process. Stay tuned as this adept team crafts an incredible product to help bring more voices to the story of California’s past.

Spotlighting the Use of Primary Sources in Teaching California

As the California Historical Society (CHS) moves forward with development on Teaching California, our state-funded initiative to offer schools and teachers classroom-ready instructional materials aligned with the new History-Social Science Framework, we’d like to spotlight the important primary source-driven philosophy of our project, and share some of the great examples that we’ve been incorporating in our content development.

In short, the new Framework is an instructional tool by which teachers can cover, and in some cases move beyond, the existing History-Social Science Standards for the state of California. Primary sources like this photo of Chinese citrus worker picking oranges in Santa Ana help answer grade-specific questions of significance, such as “Why do people move?” Students can explore how people moved from place to place, while reflecting on their own family experiences. Picking Oranges at Santa Ana, circa 1890s; General Subjects Photograph Collection-Agriculture; California Historical Society

Examining primary sources, original documents and objects created at the time of study can be an engaging, meaningful, and rigorous way for students to connect to the past. Primary sources give students the ability to trace continuity and change, foster personal connections to a larger narrative, and build deeper community connections. They also invite student inquiry and encourage students to wrestle with the complexities of differing points of view while learning crucial critical thinking and analysis skills. For teachers however, access to engaging and grade-appropriate primary sources is not always matched by a corresponding stress on the tools and context needed to utilize them successfully in the classroom.

Cue the new Framework, which outlines a new inquiry-based model of instruction for California’s K-12 classrooms. Embedded within the Framework are grade-level examples of the types of primary sources that teachers can explore with their students to help address questions of historical significance. Importantly, California’s diversity is seen as an asset and, according to Deputy Superintendent of the California Department of Education Thomas Adams, “a new opportunity for inclusive instruction.” This opportunity is available in recommendations for primary source types—like photos, letters and objects—that are not only engaging, but also inclusive.

But while teachers responded positively to the Framework after its adoption by the California Department of Education in 2016, they also expressed the strong need for access to the type of engaging and relevant primary sources outlined in its pages, organized to easily address the new inquiry-based model.

This need will shape the new collection of classroom-ready instructional materials we create for the project, which will be free and accessible to teachers in Summer 2019 on teachingcalifornia,org. Never-before-seen primary source material, much from CHS’s collections, will lead the student exploration and discovery of history through a uniquely California lens (when appropriate and relevant), and teachers will also find support in historical context, sourcing, and developing student literacy.

As the Framework details, primary sources speak to students’ own lives, heritages, and family identities, and in early grades can help students start developing a sense of history through their own family and community histories. This image of the Shorey family, from Oakland, California, can help students explore the Grade One Framework question, “How do families remember their past?” Capt. William T. Shorey and wife Julia Shelton, daughters Zenobia and Victoria, ca. 1910; Portraits Collection; California Historical Society. 
This is an example of an image that we may use for Grade One, which helps students think through the question, “How do many different people make one nation?” as students explore the ways in which Native Californians and immigrants have helped define Californian and American culture. Washoe Indians–The Chief’s Family; Stereographs of California and Nevada; PC-RM-Stereos; California Historical Society
This photograph from our collections can help address the Framework question, “What have been the costs of the decisions of people in the past?” as students explore the cost of logging or preserving the natural environment. Big Tree, 22 ft. in diameter, Jas. Brown’s Claim, Humboldt Co., California; California Counties Photography Collection; PC-CO; California Historical Society

Our content development partners on Teaching California, The California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP), are current members of the Library of Congress’ Teaching With Primary Sources (TPS) Consortium, a group of institutions across the country who help deliver TPS professional development, design curriculum using primary sources from the Library’s collections and/or conduct research on the classroom use of primary sources. This week, I am fortunate to accompany CHSSP on their annual TPS meeting in Washington DC, and learn from and with those working at the forefront of primary source-led instruction in the classroom. Opportunities like this, as well as further engagement with teachers throughout our development process, will help us continue providing access to primary sources in a way that is not only useful for teachers in the classroom, but will help do our part to shift the pattern of history-social science instruction.


This post was written by Kerri Young, Teaching California Project Manager at the California Historical Society.

Funded by a $5 million grant from the State Department of Education to the California Historical Society, Teaching California offers schools and teachers classroom-ready instructional materials designed to engage students in exciting and inspiring investigations of the past. Comprised of curated primary source material from California’s premier archives, libraries, and museums, this program provides a research-based approach to improve student reading, writing, critical thinking and civic engagement, all aligned with the State’s new K-12 History-Social Science Framework. For everything you need to know about the new Framework, visit CHSSP’s useful blog here.

Teaching California, An Origin Story

Funded by a $5 million grant from the State Department of Education to the California Historical Society, Teaching California offers schools and teachers classroom-ready curriculum designed to engage students in exciting and inspiring investigations of the past. Comprised of curated primary source material from California’s premier archives, libraries, and museums, this program provides a research-based approach to improve student reading, writing, critical thinking and civic engagement, all aligned with the State’s new K-12 History-Social Science Framework.

We sat down with the directors of the two organizations spearheading the project to find out how Teaching California came to be. A former high school history and government teacher, Nancy McTygue serves as the California History-Social Science Project’s Executive Director. Anthea Hartig serves as Executive Director and CEO of the California Historical Society. She is a Ph.D. historian and former history and cultural studies teacher.

1. What is Teaching California and what prompted this collaboration between CHS and CHSSP?

Nancy:
When complete, Teaching California will offer K-12 teachers an innovative, free, online collection of instructional resources, organized by grade level, standard, and investigative question, to support the implementation of California’s History-Social Science Framework.

Nancy McTygue, California History-Social Science Project

The inspiration for Teaching California actually came from K-12 teachers who were excited by the new Framework but lacked the appropriate resources to implement the instructional approach outlined in the document. I told Anthea about conversations I had with teachers across the state as part of the Framework rollout – teachers who wanted access to engaging and relevant primary sources, organized to specifically (and easily) address the inquiry-based instructional model we had outlined in the Framework.

Anthea and I had met years before; she served on advisory committee for our History Blueprint initiative. We continued to talk even after that development period ended because our organizations share a commitment to public history and a desire to provide teachers with the most engaging and up to date resources for their students. When I heard this request for resources again and again at Framework rollout events, I mentioned it to Anthea, who immediately connected the dots to CHS’s archive and their desire to have it accessed widely. At that point we thought about what our organizations do best and how working closely together could lead to an important synergy that would mean we could produce something that neither of us could do alone and all for a relatively small investment from the state. We’re deep in development right now, but I think we’re both getting excited about what this may actually offer to teachers and more importantly, California’s students.

Anthea:
The birth of Teaching California stemmed from the completion of the new Framework for K-12 history and the real need that we felt in the field from teachers. From CHS’s perspective, the creation of our new digital capacities, as well as raising funds and staff competencies in order to launch our digital library, was the other stream that joined this effort.

Anthea Hartig, California Historical Society

On a more global level, Teaching California was the result of a huge and unmet need to fulfill the dreams of those who have been pushing to teach with primary sources rather than with textbooks. This includes Sam Wineburg at Stanford, whose work “Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past” was groundbreaking in getting students to engage with primary sources. We also recognize the need to frame California experiences, peoples, and the phenomenal diversity of our past and to incorporate that into contemporary life and the dominate narrative of how history is taught.

We were very lucky to be able to find support from legislative leaders like Assemblymember Phil Ting as well as Tom Adams at the California Department of Education. We found willing partners all over the state but especially here at San Francisco Unified. The grant that we received not only allows for us to create a free online portal of discovery through primary sources, but also allows CHS to delve into the depths of our collection which is underused and somewhat unknown, and to continue to digitize it to make it accessible to everyone. We are creating partnerships with other archives across the state and the nation in order to help bring forth their material and make them available as part of Teaching California as well.

2. Why is this project relevant and needed now?

Nancy:
I don’t know if Teaching California could have happened in a prior time; I don’t think the conditions necessary to make it a reality existed. As I detailed above, the project originated in the minds of teachers tasked with teaching California’s new Framework. As the writers of the new Framework, we are obviously committed to its implementation and, knowing a lack of relevant resources could kill the momentum developed during its writing and adoption, we were especially keen to respond to those teachers asking for help.

In addition, although the business of education still lags behind its private and even non-profit colleagues, I think we’ve now reached at least the necessary minimum level of access to and effective use of digital resources in classrooms across the state. According to a recent newsletter from the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), 356 remote and underserved schools have just joined 100% of county offices of education, 87% of school districts (904), 83% (8,739) of schools, and over 5 million students who are already connected to CalREN, the California Research and Education Network, a high-capacity computer network with more than 8,000 miles of optical fiber. This number isn’t everything – many classrooms actually have fairly limited access to internet-connected technology and aren’t ready to scale up for wider access. However, it does bode well for our goal of providing access to our collection of classroom-ready materials, including never-seen-before primary sources from CHS’s archive.

Moreover, I believe that California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) contributed to the need for resources like Teaching California. Passed in 2013, LCFF gave local schools unprecedented flexibility in how they spend their money from the state. Although I’m sure this was not the authors’ intent, what this has meant, in practice, is that some schools have decided to prioritize their now flexible funding on costs that don’t directly address a teacher’s need for quality instructional materials. Instead of spending money adopting new textbooks or the latest instructional materials, for example, some schools and districts are investing their money in staff salaries and benefits, facilities, transportation, and any number of other important and necessary expenses. The whole purpose of LCFF was to allow schools to prioritize their spending to areas of greatest need and to put an end to the era of inflexible (and honestly, sometimes ridiculous) categorical spending. An unintended consequence of that, however, is that for some teachers in some schools, this has meant that they no longer can count on their districts buying new materials for their classrooms – even after the adoption of a new Framework that fundamentally reconsiders the instructional practice of classroom teachers. When completed, the Teaching California collection won’t take the place of a comprehensive and high quality instructional material package, but it will go a long way to helping teachers begin and – after time and additional support – truly achieve implementation of the new Framework.

Anthea:
I used to think that American popular discourse, especially American political popular discourse, was ahistorical and a-intellectual, that people didn’t really care about historical context. Now the tenor of the times is increasingly anti-intellectual and anti-historical and the need for a critical lens and the capacity to ascertain the real from the fake, the propaganda from the document, is more important than ever. We’ve seen this on the international stage, especially in relation to cyber security during the election of 2016.

I also think the need for us, as a people, to not forget our past in all of its beauty and all of its ugliness is more important than ever. America is careening towards its 250th year – what does that look like? What does mean for us? Understanding the basic materials of history as a doorway into discovery and learning is increasingly important. It’s also very important for our youth to see themselves reflected in the past and to comprehend that they too are part of a long, complicated set of movements, migrations, immigrations, and change. I hope that seeing themselves reflected in history inspires students to recognize that they can be agents of change. History is made by people and the choices that we make every day, whether it be yesterday or 10,000 years ago.

No one should be excluded from the richness of the past. A lot of teachers don’t have extensive training in history, especially in grades K-8 when they must teach a very broad range of subjects. Many high school teachers are incredible historians yet are feeling like they don’t have enough support or materials. We want to do everything we can to help these teachers access primary sources and powerful visuals so that all students, regardless of their literacy and language capacities, can find meaningful engagement with history. In the end this can truly bring about the kind of change that I and CHS would love to see in relation to history – that it increasingly becomes a vibrant and critical part of our contemporary lives and an empowering and enlightening tool of utility that creates a more just and informed world.

Portrait of seven young Japanese girls wearing kimonos at Mission School, ca. 1900_USC digital collections_CHS-5722

3. Why is it important that content from CHS’s collections (and from other repositories across the state) be included in Teaching California’s instructional materials?

Nancy:
My former faculty advisor, Alan Taylor, a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian who is now the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair at the University of Virginia, told me a story years ago that really sticks with me. He had recently moved to Davis from the East Coast to work in the history department. One day in his early American history class, while lecturing on colonial history (which primarily focuses on English colonies on the East Coast), a student raised her hand and asked, “Professor Taylor, what was happening out here in California at that time?” With tongue firmly in cheek, Alan apparently replied, “nothing,” and after getting a laugh and then acknowledging his joke, he went on with the lecture. Although short-lived, that exchange stuck with him.

American history didn’t just happen on the East Coast and students living here in California have a right to know about their state’s role in our nation’s beginnings, as well as the rest of our collective history. Alan became so committed to this pursuit – to widening the traditional geographic borders of America’s beginnings – that he reorganized his curriculum and even penned a book on the subject, American Colonies, in 2001. American Colonies offers both historians and classroom teachers a much more comprehensive view of the past – beyond the Atlantic seaboard to the entire continent. And so while I’m very reluctant to compare our work to Alan’s, I do believe we share a commitment to California citizens. We deserve to know our state’s history and how that history helped define both the place where we live and our national narrative. Using sources from the CHS’s archive (as well as other state and national collections) can go a long way in making that a reality.

Anthea:
When you get to a textbook stage of production, the curation and the choice of primary sources have been through many variations with a lot of eyes and minds upon them. We don’t think of textbooks as being particularly curated but of course they are. A set of sources is used to inspire historians to write the text. When you think of something like the new Framework, it is an interpretation itself of the state’s standards. We haven’t changed the standards in a long time but we have changed the state Framework through a lot of people’s hard work. So, taking the Framework and using that foundation to consider all the different archival materials in all of the different repositories throughout the state, nation, and world, opens us up to a phenomenal range of possibilities in regards to picking these sources, curating them, and giving them to teachers, students, and their families to investigate and better understand.

The other key driver for me as a public historian is raising awareness of the needs and power of our collections and inspiring people to do research with our primary sources. Obviously digitization leads to a greater amount of accessibility but I hope it also leads people back to the actual archives because for everything we digitize, there’s always going to be more – more boxes and folders that we just didn’t digitize because they were too fragile or we didn’t have the funds. This kind of layered curation brings with it remarkable possibilities as well as honors other archives and libraries who have been working for years to collect, steward, preserve, and make accessible their collections.

4. The Teaching California team is currently creating inquiry sets as part of the project. Can you break down what they are and what they consist of?

Nancy:

We’re creating inquiry sets, which are basically a collection of primary sources, teaching resources, and literacy support, aligned to the new Framework. When the collection is completed and posted online, teachers will be able to visit CHS’s Teaching California website, and search by grade, standard, and investigative question from the new Framework. From there, they will be able to download a set of relevant primary sources, excerpted as necessary by grade-level, teaching resources, and at least one strategy designed to improve student reading, writing, and / or oral discourse ability.

We’re creating inquiry sets, which are basically a collection of primary sources, teaching resources, and literacy support, aligned to the new Framework. When the collection is completed and posted online, teachers will be able to visit CHS’s Teaching California website, and search by grade, standard, and investigative question from the new Framework. From there, they will be able to download a set of relevant primary sources, excerpted as necessary by grade-level, teaching resources, and at least one strategy designed to improve student reading, writing, and / or oral discourse ability.

Anthea:
What I think is interesting about the creation of inquiry sets is they are being created by archivists, librarians, historians, and educators together. We think this is a very different way than how other efforts to bring forth primary sources have been created. As a teacher, you generally don’t get to sit down with a reference librarian and really think about what works and what the students will be excited by. The historians and educators at CHSSP and the archivists, historians, and reference librarians at CHS are that core team. This makes the construction of the inquiry sets a really powerful and dynamic pathway into learning.

5. How do you envision teachers using what we create for Teaching California in the classroom?

Nancy:
After selecting the appropriate source set, teachers will be able to download the individual sources to display online or print out for student review. They’ll be able to download classroom-ready handouts for their students, special “for the teacher” resources that situate each source in the larger historical narrative, a diverse collection of teaching suggestions, and literacy strategies, aligned with California’s English Language Development Standards.

Anthea:
My hope for teachers, having been one, is that they’ll trust in what we’ve created, that they will be engaged by it. They may have even helped pilot it and test it. By the time Teaching California comes to their classroom and it’s a busy Tuesday morning and they’ve reviewed the inquiry sets and lesson for that day, I hope that they’ll find within what we’ve produced a sense of wonder and discovery and newness. I hope they’ll find a story they’ve never heard before, a landscape they’ve never seen depicted, a letter they’ve never read, or a map they’ve never looked at or used. The teachers will be the conduits for bringing archives into the classroom and for helping those sources come alive. I hope the sparks of connection and learning fly and that a sense of belonging to the human continuum of experience is awakened.

Man atop ladder in roots of tree at Mariposa Grove of Big Trees

6. What has been the most exciting part, or interesting discovery during the creation process so far?

Nancy:
We have a grant from the Library of Congress; we’re part of the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources Consortium, which works to introduce K-12 teachers to the Library’s digitized resources which are available at loc.gov. When we first got the grant, my colleague Tuyen Tran (who coincidentally leads our Teaching California project) and I went to DC for the orientation meeting. During the meeting, the archivist pulled out a journal from Christopher Columbus – we actually got to hold it in our own hands and look through it. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my professional career. I had a similar experience at CHS’s archive – Anthea’s archivist showed us a biography on Junipero Serra from 1787 – and again, I was struck by just how cool that was and how this gem from our own state should be easily accessible to California teachers and students.

[Relacion historica de la vida y apostolicas tareas del venerable padre fray Junipero Serra … /escrita por el R.P.L. F.R. Francisco Palou, 1787]; [Vault 175]; California Historical Society.

Anthea: One of the challenging things that we’ve encountered so far as a team is taking our desires to use a California lens – which could be an archival lens, a lens of making sure we address native history, Spanish colonial history, and Mexican republican history – and bring all of that back into the broader way in which we teach American history and even world history. Let’s look at world history, which is taught in the 10th grade and a little bit of 6th and 7th grade. You learn about medieval and early modern times and you might ask what that has to do with California, but in our collection we have an early astronomical scientific treatise published in 1680 that talks about watching comets. This document makes all sorts of assumptions about what the comets were doing and on the frontispiece there is a stunning woodcut of our Lady of Guadalupe. If we can show that to students, and to anyone who connects with that image on a cultural or personal level, seeing her in 1680 appearing in the heavens is just incredible. There is also a stunning celestial map. I think this treatise helps us answer one of the questions which is what were the effects of 16th century exchanges between Spanish and native peoples of broader Mexico. If we have something published in 1680 from Mexico City, that just opens up this whole other way of thinking about what that exchange was. There are so many things like this in the collection that surprise you, take you deeper, or challenge assumptions you might carry with you.

Kino, Eusebio, Exposicion astronomica de el cometa, que el ano de 1680: por los meses de noviembre, y diziembre, y este ano de 1681, por los meses de enero y febrero, se ha visto en todo el mundo, y le ha observado en la ciudad de Cadiz, California Historical Society, Vault 523.6 K624e

The California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) is a statewide network of scholars and teachers dedicated to improving K-12 student literacy and learning in history-social science. Each year the CHSSP serves more than 4,000 teachers in over 150 different professional learning programs at local schools and universities. The CHSSP also served as the primary writers of California’s History-Social Science Framework. The CHSSP is part of the California Subject Matter Projects, administered by UC Office of the President.

The California Historical Society, founded in 1871, is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire and empower people to make California’s richly diverse past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives.

Funded by a $5 million grant from the State Department of Education to the California Historical Society, Teaching California offers schools and teachers classroom-ready resources designed to engage students in exciting and inspiring investigations of the past. Comprised of curated primary source material from California’s premier archives, libraries, and museums, this dynamic tool presents a research-based approach to improve student reading, writing, critical thinking and civic engagement, all aligned with the State’s new K-12 History-Social Science Framework.

In summer 2019, the Teaching California website will launch with instructional resource materials for every grade. This curriculum is being developed by the California Historical Society and its partner, the California History-Social Science Project, two organizations dedicated to improving students’ understanding of the past and promoting inquiry, engagement, evidence-based interpretation, and language proficiency. Teaching California integrates both Common Core and English Language Development Standards.