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State Historical Society of Iowa

New Online Resource Brings Iowa History to Teachers/Students

Aug 7, 2017

DES MOINES – A video of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 visit to Coon Rapids at the height of the Cold War.

The neatly typed script President Herbert Hoover used during his 1929 inaugural address, slightly wrinkled by the rain that doused the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

Sheet music and an audio recording of a 1915 song called "Don't Bite the Hand That's Feeding You," which urged immigrants to stay loyal to the United States during World War I.

These eye-opening documents – and dozens more – from the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Library of Congress are now available to teachers, students and lifelong learners thanks to a new online resource that was unveiled today.

The trove of virtual treasures is the result of more than a year of research and almost $100,000 in grant funding from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program.

The project was designed to help teachers develop lessons around first-hand accounts of major turning points in history, from the Underground Railroad to the Great Depression to the various efforts to desegregate schools throughout the 20th century. About 80 percent of the materials offer a national perspective, while the remaining 20 percent focus on Iowa.

“We’re eager to give people a new tool to dig deeper into the past,” State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “These multimedia documents bring history to life in ways that even the best textbooks simply can’t.”

The primary source sets, as they’re called, will be particularly useful for Iowa teachers, who have been asked to incorporate Iowa history at all grade levels by 2020. The requirement is part of a new set of social studies standards the Iowa State Board of Education adopted earlier this year.

Accordingly, the primary source sets are accompanied by an online toolkit to help K-12 teachers guide classroom discussions and nudge their students toward historical investigation. The sets can be filtered by subject, time period and grade level.

“We designed this new resource to be clear and easy to use for teachers so that they're well-positioned to provide an engaging classroom experience for their students,” said Stefanie Wager, the social studies consultant for the Iowa Department of Education.

Wager leads the Iowa History Advisory Council, whose final report on the matter suggested that “because Iowa history has been so long neglected, there is a generation of Iowa school children growing up unaware of the impressive lives of distinguished Iowans who are nationally and even internationally recognized or the ways in which important global events had important Iowa connections.”

“It is a deficiency of our own making, and we have the resources and willpower to end it,” the report concluded. “The time to tell our own stories is now.”

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.

The Iowa Department of Education works with the Iowa State Board of Education to provide support, supervision, and oversight for the state education system that includes public elementary and secondary schools, nonpublic schools that receive state accreditation, area education agencies, community colleges, and teacher preparation programs.