Last week, I discussed Information Culture and the Maker Movement, which examined "making" to enhance STEAM education, creativity, and independent learning within a school setting. As I develop a makerspace in our high school library, I have been thinking of how to include archives in my planning. I believe that educational institutions wait too long to expose people to the idea of archives. Students may learn a bit about primary sources in association with a history class, but that does not teach them the full value of these materials. Most students do not get to work hands-on with archives until college, or grad school, if they get to handle them at all. As an Information Specialist, I want my students to understand the broad concept of information, i.e. that there is recorded information about every discipline and that it takes many forms. It is our responsibility to save archival information that sheds light on our ideas to help advance society. It is an Information Specialist's responsibility to make archival materials available to young people so that they have a better understanding of how archival materials may impact their lives.
My school is developing a collection of archival materials in part to celebrate our school building's upcoming 50th anniversary. I have invited students to take part in the collecting of materials. These students are part of a committee that I call the "50th Anniversary Committee." It is my goal to have these students also perform interviews for oral histories. Beyond the direct role my committee takes in the development of our Archives, I want those not involved with our special event planning to be given an opportunity to "experience" the resources.
This morning I was listening to the TED Radio Hour on NPR. Sugata Mitra discussed how his experiments "have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other." Sugata Mitra has left computers for disadvantaged young people without teaching them how to use them. His studies have shown that kids will find a way to make them work and do useful things with them. Is it possible to do this with archives in a library setting? Can we entice teens to learn on their own within a school building during their off-time, especially when the learning is not tied to the classroom in any way?
What if, I started by putting out copies of unusual photos in a box on my maker table?. What would the students do with them? Would they ignore them? Would they organize them? Would they begin discussing them? Maybe someone might write something about them. Maybe an art student might be inspired to draw.
What if I put an original 19th century diary on a table. Would the students start wondering about it? Would they be interested enough to look at it and make connections to today? What if I shared an early 20th century nature journal for my science lovers, or old advertisements promoting medical devices? Then, what if I put some papers in an archival box with empty folders and other archival tools? Would they learn to process something?...Is there any chance that I might spark something in someone? I wonder - do I have to tell the teens that they are allowed to touch the materials to get them to explore them or would that kill any interest they may have? Maybe it's better to just leave them there. How do I make the items tempting? I don't know, but I'm going to give it a try and I'll play with the concept all year.
Perhaps I might find a student who develops enough interest in the work to join our anniversary committee. Perhaps someone will go home and ask their parents about the family papers they have stored in the basement. Or - dreaming big? - perhaps someone may even be inspired to one day pursue a career as archivist.