The Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta resource
contains hundreds of historical primary source materials that are
"real" history. They are the personal affects, clothing,
weapons, tools, photographs, documents, artwork, and maps from the
individuals who are a part of Alberta's history. These primary source
materials have been digitized from the collections of the Glenbow
museum in Calgary and represent almost 40 different "Mavericks"
who made Alberta what it is today.
"Historical Thinking" in the Alberta Social Studies Curriculum
Primary sources allow students and teachers to become actively
engaged with history and learn about the actual people involved.
Students do not just "learn" or memorize history, they
are able to actually become historians themselves. They will acquire
and develop historical thinking strategies that will assist them
in constructing their own understandings and apply what they learn
by judging different historical perspectives that may be different
from their own. Historical thinking skills involve the positioning
of people, places, ideas, and events within a historical context
and assist students in developing a "sense of time and place"
for the past that aids their definition of the present.
Primary Versus Secondary Sources
A primary source is a first-hand, original, authentic account
of the past. They are the actual records or evidence of historical
figures and events and tell the "story" of the past. They
are often a one of a kind item that was owned or created by someone
who was there to actually, "see it happen." Primary sources
are often one-of-a-kind and can be oral histories, diaries, personal
letters, photographs, special objects, tool, weapons, family heirlooms,
documents, autobiographies, and even newspapers.
A secondary source is a second-hand, narrated report or
description of the past. They were created after the actual events
of the time period. They may contain an argument, opinion, or bias,
as the account may have been written from the specific point of
view of one author. Secondary sources can be textbooks, historical
movies, historical novels, and biographies.
Why Should Students Analyze Primary Sources in Social Studies?
- Primary source artifacts aid students' understanding of history,
allowing them to construct links to the past
- Students are better able to place themselves into a specific
- Primary source analysis can be integrated across the curriculum
- Primary source analysis is a hands-on, critical, and historical
thinking activity that drives students to question, investigate,
reflect, and analyze their judgments
- Primary source artifacts are motivating because they were personal
to someone and present the human side of history
- Students will no longer view history as just the facts, specific
events, and memorized dates presented in a textbook format
Most students and parents believe that learning about history is
a process of memorizing the facts and dates of specific events on
a timeline. They assume that the writing included in their textbook
is the one and only definitive version of history. The use of primary
sources to examine history will allow students to begin to see that
historians examine the available evidence and create their best
interpretation of the events. A popular saying, "History is
written by the victors," hints that there are many different
points of view toward any sets of events. Any teacher involved in
sorting out an argument on the school playground knows that each
individual involved will have a different point of view toward the
same event and may disagree on the "facts."
"History will be kind to me for I intend to write
Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Primary sources present the "human" side of history.
They can be related to great historical figures or to a common person
of the time period. Students are able to step into the actual lives
of these characters from history rather than merely reading about
them. The values, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and ways of life
of these individuals come shining through, connecting students to
the actual stories of genuine persons.
The Primary Source Inquiry Process
Students, by using primary sources, will undertake a similar process
as a historian by analyzing the evidence. They will argue and debate
about their interpretations of the artifacts. They will be forced
to explain the evidence that led them to form their point of view,
using critical and historical thinking to justify their opinions.
Participating in these discussions and deliberations compel students
to examine the subjectivity involved in the historical process,
understanding that the analysis and significance attributed to a
specific artifact may be disputed by different individuals.
"History is the version of past events that people
have decided to agree upon."
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
In order for students to form a thorough analysis, they will develop
and use their skills of observation, as well as create logical inferences
based on their inspection of the primary source. They will have
to ask essential questions, find and examine other sources of evidence
or information, creatively and critically analyze their findings,
connect the artifact to its specific historical context, present
their judgments in a persuasive, coherent manner, and support their
opinions when confronted with different viewpoints of their own.
Primary source materials can provide a great deal of information
on the cultural, social, and historical viewpoints of individuals,
reflecting the stories and anecdotes of the people who made or used
them. As an extension of a primary source artifact inquiry, students
could tell the "story" of that artifact, document, or
photograph, incorporating all their knowledge and understanding
of the owner or creator, their way of life, their opinions and values,
specific events in their lifetime, as well as their achievements
Blackline Masters for Students - Primary Source Inquiry Process
Primary historical sources change the way we look at history by
allowing students to construct their own point of view toward historical
figures and events. Undertaking historical object-based inquiry
activities pushes students to actively discover, investigate, research,
question, and analyze his or her own understanding of the past.
The process urges students to use and improve upon critical and
creative thinking, logical reasoning and analytical reflection,
all within a real historical context
- Historical Artifact-Based Inquiry
- Analysis of primary source artifacts using journaling and
- Historical Photograph-Based Inquiry
- Analysis of primary source photographs using journaling and
- Historical Document-Based Inquiry
- Analysis of primary source documents using journaling and
- Historical Map-Based Inquiry
- Analysis of primary source historical maps using journaling
and questioning strategies
The four documents have been created to guide students through
an analysis of primary source materials. They should begin by asking
and developing their own questions about a particular primary source,
then move on to examine questions that are appropriate for their
artifact. Using a journaling style of writing will enable students
to ask their own questions, develop answers, reflect on their findings,
and examine what they have learned or still need to learn about
their primary source material.