This post was written by Processing Archivist Thomas DeShong, Collections Services Archivist Amanda Fisher, and Graduate Research Center Operations Manager Jonathan Tomes.
On August 6th, representatives of the W. R. Poage Legislative Library and the Graduate Research Center collaborated with members of Baylor University’s School of Education to provide learning stations that highlighted various aspects of civic education and engagement to approximately one hundred students from fifth to ninth grade. The programming for iEngage 2019 involved a five-station rotation.
Advocacy Alive/Waco History App Station
Graduate student Nate Scholten from the School of Education showed students how to utilize the Waco History App as a means of becoming more knowledgeable about current sites and events in Waco. Nate highlighted Waco’s history of flooding and how the Brazos River, the Suspension Bridge, and the Waco Dam are inter-related. Students were encouraged to ask the question “why” as they read articles and viewed photographs on the app. Before transitioning to the next station, students filled out an exit slip where they summarized their findings and answered the question, “How do citizens investigate community issues?”
Constituent Correspondence Station
Collections Services Archivist Amanda Fisher and History Ph.D. candidate Kristina Benham staffed the Constituent Correspondence station where they provided an overview of the Advocacy Hourglass model the students would be working with for the remainder of the week. The advocacy hourglass is a tool that students can use to help build action plans to advocate for a local community issue. The hourglass helps students think through community issues, narrow to a focus issue, determine root causes of their focus issues, establish goals for addressing the root causes, and define targets (those whom they ask for help in addressing the root cause) and tactics (actions taken to convey the message to the targets).
The students broke into smaller groups to dissect constituent letters written to former Congressman Chet Edwards, placing portions of the letter on the advocacy hourglass where they best fit. Once they talked through these letters with their small group, Kristina and Amanda helped the larger group work through the letters together, asking them to think about the issues on a local scale. The overall aim of the station was that students would walk away caring to Know about an issue, See how to address the issue, and Do something about it – in this case, find a target who would advocate for their issues and write them a letter.
First Amendment Rights Station
At the First Amendment Rights station, English PhD candidate Reyna Johnson and Processing Archivist Thomas DeShong delved deeper into individual rights and freedoms that Americans have under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Tommy introduced the topic by providing a brief historical overview of the Bill of Rights and why the first ten amendments to the Constitution were deemed necessary after the colonists’ collective experiences under British rule.
Afterwards, Reyna focused in on the First Amendment which protects some of our most important rights as individuals. After explaining what rights were expressed and protected by the First Amendment, students were given primary sources from Poage (mainly clippings, correspondence, and photographs) and asked to identify which First Amendment rights were actively at work. This exercise highlighted the complexity of constitutional rights as most of the situations demonstrated multiple rights in action. The station concluded with staff asking the students how they could actively exercise their freedom of assembly, press, speech, religion, and petition in their own lives.
Living Timeline Station
This year, the Living Timeline station tackled water source issues centered around the Trinity River which flows from Dallas-Fort Worth to the Gulf of Mexico. The activity made use of materials from the Sam B. Hall, John Dowdy, and Thomas Pickett papers. Graduate Research Center Operations Manager Jonathan Tomes, History master’s student Mikah Sauskojus, and undergraduate Political Science/Pre-Law major Kayla Thompson divided the participants into small groups and gave each group a folder of short articles, political cartoons, and statistics from an era of local water history.
The participants were allotted ten minutes to read through their materials. Next, the groups placed their materials on a large timeline situated at the front of the class. Finally, staff probed deeper into the sources and issues through a series of questions designed for student-led instruction. The iEngage participants used what they had learned in the first phase of the activity to teach their remaining peers about the water issue faced in their time period and what was done to address the problem.
Photo Puzzle Station
In the fifth and final stop on our iEngage tour, Museum Studies graduate students Emma Whipkey and Samuel Rieta led the Photo Puzzle station. Puzzles, based on photographs from the Poage Library, were distributed to the students. These depicted politicians such as Representative Chet Edwards and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock addressing key issues such as veterans’ affairs, housing, etc.
The aim of the station was to have campers see part of an issue at first, then comprehend it more completely once the puzzle was solved and the larger group conferred with each other. Emma and Sam asked students to reflect on how these issues affect the Waco area today and what could be done to advocate for them.
The faculty, staff, and student workers at Poage Library and the Graduate Research Center always enjoy the time we have with iEngage participants. Activities such as these validate how significant archives can be in civics education and shaping the future. We close this blog, and another year of iEngage, with questions we ultimately posed to the students: How are you involved in your community? How are you exercising your rights? What can you be doing to make a difference?