Diving Into Maine History with Primary Sources

Looking for ways to connect your students with national issues and events through a local lens? Three Maine agencies have partnered to create “primary source sets,” themed packets of images, documents, artifacts, and sound recordings that open a window into Maine’s past.

The Maine State Museum, Maine State Archives, and Maine State Library have partnered with the Maine Department of Education to offer these free resources to schools and homeschools across the state.

The structure is simple. Each packet provides an introduction with contextual information on the topic. Then, students receive the primary sources – with no explanation of what they are. Students spend time with their source, finding clues, making observations, asking questions, and interpreting what they see and how it might connect to the broader story. The materials are presented like mysteries that the students can solve, with optional analysis worksheets to walk them through the process. They actively do the work of historians.

Only after these steps do they get the “answers,” labels with the names, dates, and facts associated with their sources. Optional reflection questions and activities offer opportunities for additional depth to the lesson, often drawing the line between the historical materials and issues that impact the present.

The themes and the questions they explore:

Maine Pandemics

old tuberculosis vaccine poster
Image source: Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/98508942/

Explores sources with information on the local story of smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, and polio.

  • How do people carry on with life during a pandemic?
  • How do information and misinformation spread during a pandemic?
  • How do pandemics impact different people in different ways?
  • Is it right to control people’s actions during a pandemic?

Access this set here »

Freedom & Captivity

old photo of a jail cell
Maine State Prison Jail Cell Around 1924

Sources exploring the history of incarceration in Maine.

  • What Kinds of People are in Prison?
  • Life in Prison
  • Captivity Outside of Prison
  • Working in Captivity

“Since mass incarceration is such a critical part of our history and our present, we must be able to offer students a way to understand how we got to this point,” said Freedom & Captivity Coordinator Catherine Besteman who worked on some of the materials for this project. “The U.S. is the world’s largest jailer.  It is likely that many children have been impacted by the legal system because of the arrest or incarceration of a family or community member. Understanding how the criminal legal system in the U.S. developed, how it has grown, how it impacts families and communities, and what alternatives exist is a profoundly important task for our schools if we are ever to correct the abuses and problems of the past in order to build a healthier future.”

Access this set here »

Maine’s Bicentennial

old map of maine
The Province of Maine 1794

Different elements of Maine’s story leading up to statehood in 1820.

  • Creating a Maine Identity
  • Mapping Maine
  • Power of Maine’s Vote
  • Slavery and Maine
  • Statehood and the Wabanaki

Access this set here »

Here is the link to sign up for Joe’s famous Social Studies listserv where you can find out about great resources like this one.

Interested in learning more? Join the next webinar about these great resources. More information can be found below. You can also reach out to Maine DOE Social Studies Specialist Joe Schmidt at Joe.Schmidt@maine.gov or contact Manie State Museum Education Program Specialist Kate Webber at kate.webber@maine.gov.

Part 4: “Maine Pandemics” Primary Source Set
Exploring pre-packaged online educator materials on the theme of the history of pandemics in Maine. 3:00-4:30pm ET November 9th (Register for this session)

What I Did with My Summer: Falmouth Social Studies Teacher Gains Perspective on School Desegregation

“I always think that the interactions with other teachers from different parts of the country are fascinating,” said Maine educator Keith Magnuson after virtually attending a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) workshop this past summer. “We are all experiencing some of the same basic trends in teaching, but they play out in such different ways depending on your exact location.”

Magnuson teaches social studies at Falmouth High School and this past summer he decided to take a week-long virtual workshop entitled, “The Long Road From Brown: School Desegregation in Virginia”. Hosted by professors of history and education from Old Dominion University through NEH, there were about 30 teachers from around the country that participated in the workshop along with Magnuson.

He became aware of the workshop through Maine Department of Education (DOE) Social Studies Specialist Joe Schmidt’s popular Social Studies Listserv. “Each year I try to get information out through my listserv about relevant programming, and the NEH runs these institutes each year,” said Schmidt. “Each summer there is a different slate of topics/locations.”

This particular workshop unveiled the unknown stories of school desegregation in the State of Virginia and throughout the nation after the US Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. It highlighted the role African Americans played in bringing about Brown, the state’s determined resistance, the processes that led to initial and then token school desegregation, the eventual integration of public education, and the slow decline of school integration in recent decades.

“We talked a lot about covering difficult or controversial topics in high schools,” explained Magnuson. He also recounted that there were a lot of interesting details that came from former VA high school students, in schools during that era, who spoke, and that workshop participants also got to see many primary source photographs and documents which also provided a lot of interesting information.

“I love participating in workshops like this,” he said. “Especially when they pull in such a diverse group of teachers with a variety of teaching positions and from schools scattered around the country,” adding that this workshop was on an interesting topic relevant to our times.

“I am going to be much more capable of talking in detail about the Brown decision and the implementation of it in class,” said Magnuson, adding that, “every teacher should take advantage of some of the many opportunities we have to broaden our knowledge and perspective.”

To learn more about NEH Workshops visit https://www.neh.gov/divisions/education/summer-programs or https://nehforall.org/programs/summer-programs-for-school-teachers.

To join Joe’s Social Studies Listserv click here. For more information and questions about social studies resources for Maine educators, contact Joe at joe.schmidt@maine.gov.

Michelle Strattard Named 2021 Maine History Teacher of the Year

Michelle Strattard, a teacher at Gray-New Gloucester High School has been named the 2021 Maine History Teacher of the Year, an award presented annually by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to K-12 American history education. The selection of the award winner in Maine is facilitated by the Maine Department of Education (DOE) by Joe Schmidt, Social Studies Specialist for the Maine DOE.

In 2021, parents, students, teachers, and administrators nationwide nominated a record 8,510 teachers for the History Teacher of the Year Award. Amidst a very competitive field, Michelle rose to the top in Maine.

In 2012, Michelle earned a Master’s of Teaching and Learning from the University of Southern Maine after completing the Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP). She previously earned a BA in History from the same institution.  As an alumna of Gray-New Gloucester High school, she was proud to join their faculty in 2015, eventually coming to teach the very class that inspired her love of local history as a student, Shaker Studies. She brings this love of local history to the classroom so students can see where they fit into the larger picture. Students engage in historical research, exploration, and inquiry in the classroom to build academic skills and become engaged citizens.  Michelle also serves as a board member of the Maine Council for the Social Studies, helping to support social studies educators around the state.

In addition to a $1,000 honorarium, Michelle’s school will receive a core archive of American history books and Gilder Lehrman educational materials and recognition at a ceremony in Maine.

Inaugurated in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. The award honors one K-12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and US Territories. In fall 2021, the National History Teacher of the Year will be selected from the pool of state winners.

The 10 finalists for the National History Teacher of the Year Award will be announced on Thursday, September 9, with the national winner announced later that month. An in-person ceremony for the winner will be held in late fall 2021, health and safety protocols permitting. Support for the National History Teacher of the Year Award ceremony is provided by HISTORY®

Nominations for the 2022 History Teacher of the Year awards are now open. Students, parents, colleagues, and supervisors may nominate K-12 teachers for the award by visiting gilderlehrman.org/nhtoy. The deadline for 2022 nominations is March 31, 2022.

Maine Students Earn Honors at the National History Day

Students from across Maine impressed judges from across the globe in the National History Day (NHD) competition. NHD is an international program focusing on studying and learning history in middle and high schools. Students choose a specific topic that fits in with the year’s theme and lead an extensive research project. NHD culminates in the presenting of the students’ projects to experts from across the field of history. The theme of the 2021 NHD contest was “Communication in History: the Key to Understanding.”

Several Maine students were given the Outstanding Affiliate Award. Jillian Muller, Charlotte McGreevy, and Brittany Carrier from Buckfield Jr./Sr. High school received this award for the documentary they created titled “Communicating with Children: How Fred Rogers Approached Tough Topics with Kids.” Uyen Nguyễn from John Bapst Memorial High school was also awarded for her website “United States Involvement in the Vietnam War: The Impacts of Multimedia ON Mainstream Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy.”

The highlight of the tournament for the state of Maine was Maya Faulstich, who took second place overall in the Individual Performance category. Maya, an eighth-grader from Frank H. Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, drew on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to create her project “A Climate Carol.”

Maya’s project illustrates how the Keep America Beautiful campaign in the 1950s-1970s had a lasting negative influence on how the public thinks about trash and litter and highlights how the campaign continues to influence public opinion today. Maya’s second-place finish is the highest place a Maine student has taken in the category of Individual Performance on NHD. Maya’s performance can be watched below. In addition, her research and process can be read here.

The Maine DOE congratulates all students and teachers involved in the competition on such an impressive showing.

More details on the NHD completion can be found on the official press release. Extensive information on Maya’s project can be found in her recent interview.

This article was written by Maine DOE Intern Clio Bersani in collaboration with National History Day in Maine and Yarmouth School Department as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

June Wabanaki Conference Pays Tribute to 20th Anniversary of LD 291

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) hosted close to 100 educators on Saturday, June 12th for a morning-long virtual recognition event that paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of the signing of LD 291, a requirement for the teaching of Wabanaki history and culture in Maine classrooms.

“While we understand that there is still a lot of work to be done, it was important to recognize that 20 years ago this important legislation was signed,” said Joe Schmidt, Maine DOE Coordinator of Secondary Learning and Social Studies Specialist. Schmidt helped plan the June conference. “We carefully planned this event to both look to the past, recognizing how we got here, and to the present and future by providing meaningful resources to support relevant, robust, and inclusive education for our students here in Maine.”

The conference opened with a video message from Governor Janet T. Mills, remarks from Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin, and a keynote by LD 291 legislative sponsor, Honorable Donna Loring and featured three strands of virtual, synchronous professional learning opportunities:

Opening Remarks: Video Message from Governor Mills
View Message 
Commissioner Makin & Honorable Donna Loring
View Recording

Strand 1 – Wabanaki People and Culture:

Intro to MicMac Language
Presenter: John Dennis
View Recording
Maine Indian Policy History, Racism, and the Future of Wabanaki Tribal Sovereignty
Presenter: Darren Ranco
View Recording
Wabanaki Diplomacy and LD 291: Storying Protocols as Political Will
Presenter: Nolan Altvater
View Recording
Strand 2 – Classroom Resources: Wabanaki Stories in Your Secondary Classroom
Presenter: Margo Lukens & Ashton Carmichael
View Recording
Wabanaki Studies in the Elementary classroom
Presenter: Brianne & Kaya Lolar
View Recording
Resources to extend knowledge of Wabanaki Culture and History
Presenter: Melanie Brown
View Recording
Strand 3 – Decolonization: Towards Decolonizing Education: Settler Colonialism and Empire Building in the Classroom
Presenter: Starr Kelly
View Recording
Equity, Decolonization, Anti-Racism and Wabanaki Studies: Portland Public Schools’ Journey to Fulfill the 2001 Wabanaki Studies Law
Presenter: Fiona Hopper
View Recording
Decolonial Mirrors & Shifting the Gaze to Anti-Racist Education
Presenter: Rebecca Sockbeson
View Recording

Further resources from each of the presentations are available on the 2021 Wabanaki Conference webpage. The webpage also features a video message from Senator Angus King recognizing the importance the 20th anniversary of L.D. 291 and the integration of Wabanaki history and culture in Maine education.

The Maine DOE has also recently collaborated with UMaine and other state organizations on a grant to support enhanced access, utilization of Wabanaki resources and provided interactive workshops hosted by Wabanaki REACH, in addition to many other professional learning opportunities offered by Department specialists and partners throughout the past several years to assist and support schools across Maine in understanding L.D. 291 and integrating Wabanaki culture and history into education programming.

Further Wabanaki education resources and contacts can be found on the Maine Department of Education Maine Native Studies Resources webpage

We look forward to working with schools, tribes, and education partners throughout Maine to expand these important efforts. For more information or to make a connection with the Maine DOE, reach out to Joe Schmidt at Joe.Schmidt@maine.gov.