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Social studies teacher gains valuable lessons at Library of Congress training

Dec 7, 2017

A PA Cyber teacher is taking the lessons she learned over the summer to engage her students.

Katie Batting, a social studies teacher, was among 23 educators nationwide selected to participate in the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Summer Teacher Institute in Washington, D.C.

"It's a pretty intense program," Batting said. "It was amazing. We were there from 9 to 5 every day."

Batting's five-day training session July 31 to Aug. 4 was geared toward learning about World War I using primary source classroom materials available from the collection.

Prior to arriving, Batting completed pre-work — workshop modules that gave participants an understanding of how the Library of Congress works. The goal of the entire week, she said, was to construct a lesson using Library of Congress resources that would teach World War I. All of the lessons were put on display for other educators to review.

"I didn't have to teach my lesson, but we did a gallery walk at the end of the week where we did present our lesson to the other teachers that were there," Batting said.
Batting plans to teach that same lesson as part of her World War I module, but it won't be until spring. In the meantime, she has been utilizing the teaching tools and strategies she learned in the training.

Early October was the first week Batting ran with it, using some of the specific strategies she learned at the summer institute.

Using "primary sources," the main tool the Library of Congress teaches educators to use, Batting said she taught her students to observe, reflect, and question. In observations, students discussed what they noticed, then reflected on or made hypotheses about and tested them. Then came the questions.

"We looked at a stained glass window and one of my students, with no source information, said 'I think it's in a church.' Ok, great. Why do you think it's in a church? 'Because I think most stained glass windows show up in churches.' And that's exactly the kind of comments I'm expecting to hear. Then the question itself: why was it created, who created it, how did they learn how to create it?"

Batting, who refers to herself as a "professional development junkie," was chosen from more than 300 applicants to participate in the program. In addition to teachers, the program typically includes school library media specialists and school administrators from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Educators get the chance to work with Library of Congress education specialists and topical experts as they explore ways to incorporate primary sources into classroom lessons and view the library's website, which features millions of digital historical documents and artifacts.

To wrap up the session, Batting will write a reflection and participate in a webinar with the other teachers who took part. The final portion won't happen until the end of the school year, giving everyone a chance to debrief and discuss what worked.

"Learning and connecting with other teachers is invaluable," Batting said. "That's one of the most amazing things to me, going to one of those professional developments, is making friends in other areas and bouncing ideas off of them, and learning with them and through them."

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.