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Session Descriptions: Day 1 AM Block: Ducady

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Think Like a Historian: Helping Students Play Detective with Historical Materials
August 8, 10:05-11:35am

Sarah Carr, Education and Program Manager, Museum of Work & Culture, Rhode Island Historical Society
Email Website  
Geralyn Ducady, Director of the Newell D. Goff Center for Education and Public Programs,
Rhode Island Historical Society
@RIHistory Website

  • Social Studies, 5-12
  • Audience cap: 24

Our session reviews the methods & strategies that teachers can utilize in their classrooms to help students relate to historical themes through interaction with historical objects and primary sources. We will demonstrate how the use of primary sources and artifacts in teaching allows students to actively engage with history and learn to "think like historians," use evidence in their arguments, think critically, and build 21st Century Skills.

The interactive portion will underscore the skills discussed in the presentation, and will focus on the Immigrant Suitcase activity offered by the Museum of Work & Culture. The activity is structured so that teams of students are able to sort through the belongings of an early 20th century immigrant family. Items include photos, documents, period clothing, toys, religious icons, and mementos.

Museum staff use leading questions to help students critically think about the objects they are finding and what, as a group, they may imply about the suitcase's owners. They are asked to draw conclusions about where the family was coming from, the family makeup (parents, children, etc), their jobs, their social status, where they were headed, etc. Each team presents their findings and then is led in a broader discussion of the similarities and differences between the suitcases and what they may mean for immigration generally.


Sarah Carr is the Education & Program Manager at the Museum of Work & Culture. During her time with the Museum she has overseen the launch of its award winning SensAbilities Saturday program for families with children on the Autism spectrum, as well as the Mill Project, a digital exhibit currently under development.  Sarah has previously worked at Paralyzed Veterans of America & Tutor.com.  She holds her degree in English & Creative Writing from The George Washington University and currently serves on the board of the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Geralyn Ducady has been working with teachers and teaching teachers and students how to use primary resource materials in their teaching and learning for over fourteen years. Currently Director of the Newell D. Goff Center for Education and Public Programs, she previously worked at the Haffenreffer Museum as the Curator for Programs and Education for nine years where, focusing on using museum objects as primary resources, she oversaw, developed, and implemented museum and outreach programs for learners from preschool through senior citizens.

Previous to her work at the Haffenreffer, Geralyn worked in the education department for four years at the San Diego Museum of Man, beginning as an intern and working her way up to Education Coordinator. In addition to the Museum’s regular school programs, she taught in a special School in the Park program where fourth grade students spent two weeks of school at each of several museums in Balboa Park.

While working on her Master's degree at San Diego State University, she ran and taught a hands-on outreach program out of the Anthropology Department's archaeological collections program that served San Diego schools.

For her Master's degree, Geralyn worked with fourth and fifth grade teachers in the San Diego Unified School District and members of the local Kumeyaay Indian community to develop a hands-on curriculum kit for teachers to use in their classrooms along with a "Teacher's Guide to Historical and Contemporary Kumeyaay Culture" that continues to be of value to teachers today.

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