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‘History Alive, Virtually’ Project Provides Online Education Materials for Arkansas’s K-12 Teachers

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Ever since COVID-19 started, schools across the country have pivoted back and forth between in-person and virtual learning, leaving educators with a need to find reliable online teaching resources for their students.

The UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC) came up with a solution for this problem by launching the “History Alive, Virtually!” project, a curated set of collections created especially for use by K-12 teachers in Arkansas and their students. Since the project’s launch on July 1, 2021, the website has been visited more than 3,000 times.

“K-12 teachers have had to adapt quickly to technology that allows them to teach students remotely in the time of COVID-19,” said Dr. Deborah Baldwin, associate provost and CAHC director. “This project illustrates how research materials can be made accessible in a manner that allows scholars, students, and community members to explore an array of research questions and to illustrate how archives can be used to really enliven a classroom. It’s  been a good experience for us, and I think a really helpful product for teachers.”

The Center for Arkansas History and Culture has curated digitized primary sources and arranged them into 10 themed virtual collections, which contain educational exercises that can be used in face-to-face, virtual, or hybrid classrooms. Every exercise highlights a historical issue that is investigated through the analysis of a primary source or a small set of primary sources. The exercises are complete activities aligned with Arkansas Social Studies Standards and include short introductory sections, links to additional resources, and a set of downloadable handouts for use in the classroom.

Additionally, a comprehensive list of CAHC’s digitized primary sources has been compiled and made searchable for easy reference. The project also included a workshop for educators, a contribution of additional digitized items to the public catalog, and a series of curriculum guides designed to meet state social studies frameworks.

Baldwin served as the project’s principal investigator, while Laura McClellan, CAHC assistant director, served as the project manager. Additional staff who worked on the project include Dr. Marta Cieslak, a humanities scholar who curated sources and created educational activities; Elise Tanner, director of digital projects and initiatives at CAHC who designed and developed the project’s website; and Cody Besett, student success archivist, who oversaw the creation of a comprehensive list of digitized primary sources and supervised a team of student researchers.

The student researchers who contributed toward the project include graduate assistants Lauren Fontaine, A.J. Box, Brittany Fugate, and Harrison Mitchell, as well as Scott Bradshaw, an undergraduate intern.

Arkansas teachers were also involved in the creation of “History Alive, Virtually!” CAHC staff worked with a teacher advisory group that was involved in every step of the project – from reviewing the grant application to helping choose themes and documents for the project’s collections to testing out educational materials.

“Everything was consolidated with teachers,” Cieslak said. “The most helpful feedback we received is that the teachers would take the exercises we designed into the classroom and have a test run with their students. It was wonderful to hear that the students had a positive experience with our exercises. The website offers 56 different exercises that showcase a variety of sources and address various levels of expertise ranging from history students to seasoned historians interested in deepening their knowledge.”

The project is supported by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, which is funded through the CARES Act for COVID-19 relief and the National Endowment for the Humanities.