#COVIDStories: Creating Primary Sources for the Future

Title

#COVIDStories: Creating Primary Sources for the Future

Description

Where do primary sources come from? This activity will have students document an aspect of their COVID-19 experience in the form of a social media post, donate it to their community archive, and then think about how that resource will inform people of the future.

The lesson packet above includes activities, examples, and worksheet.

Creator

Maine Contemporary Archives Collaborative

Date

2021

Subject

History
Speaking & Listening
Visual Arts

Grade Levels

Middle School
High School

Standards

Social Studies--History--Standard 1 (F1, D1)
English Language Arts--Speaking & Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration--Standard 1
English Language Arts--Speaking & Listening: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas--Standard 3
Visual & Performing Arts--Visual Arts--B1 Media Skills
Visual & Performing Arts--Visual Arts--B3 Making Meaning

Objectives

Use images, audio, video or multimedia to recount an experience
Create and describe a primary source document that provides information about life during the COVID-19 pandemic
Communicate ideas and feelings about preserving primary sources for the future

Definitions

Archive: a place where primary source materials are physically or digitally stored
Born digital: material created in a digital format, such as websites, emails, social media posts, and digital photos
Metadata: information about a resource
Primary source: material that contains firsthand information about people, places, events, and time periods

Materials

Metadata Worksheet
Paper and writing/art supplies for written or drawn submissions.
Smartphone, tablet, or computer for photo, audio, or video submissions.

Modifications

Work collaboratively with a friend or family member
Analog items can be photographed or scanned and submitted by teacher or parent

Resources

Examples of primary sources created by young people:

Lesson Plan Text

Introduction

To learn about history, we look to the records created by the people who were there. We might look at photographs, read a diary or some letters, or listen to a recording of someone speaking. These are all primary sources! When we look at primary sources, we are hearing a real person telling their story in their own way. Often, these materials weren’t made with the intention of telling a story way in the future--they were just made. And somehow, they were kept by someone who cared about them, and then donated to an archive or library because they were from a time that ended up being important or described a person or event that became important.

Consider the time we live in now--do you think that in 10, or 20, or 50 years people will want to know more about today? In this lesson, students will make their own primary source--in the form of a social media post documenting a feeling or aspect of their own life during the COVID pandemic.

Step 1: Making (or Faking) a Social Media Post

Have your students make (or fake) a social media post on an aspect of their life during COVID. 

A fake could be a photograph with some text, a short video, or audio recording--students can be as creative as they want! Students can also create a drawing, comic, or journal entry offline.

Some ideas for students: 

  • Show how your space or your daily routine looks different.
  • Describe a COVID-era pet peeve.
  • Share something you love, something that makes you laugh, or something that gets you through a hard day. 

For more inspiration, check out our list of Prompts to Inspire Your Words and Images

Ask students to document their social media post so that they have a single image, audio, or video file to share.

If students have created their post on an app like Instagram or TikTok, they can take a screenshot of their image or a screen recording of their video. If they have created something physical, like a drawing, they can photograph or scan their creation. 

Step 2: Describing and Submitting the Post

Have your students fill out the #COVIDStories Metadata Worksheet. The metadata describes what their post is and what it is all about. Students should include any hashtags that they would use when posting their image, audio, or video on social media. 

Students can refer to this example of an Instagram post included in a Maine Contemporary Archives collection: Rainy Day Deliveries.

Submit posts to your local or regional COVID-19 community archive. (Use this list to find a participating library near you.)  Each project has its own Terms and Conditions for contributions; get in touch if you have any questions! Make sure to have the metadata on hand. You’ll need to enter it when submitting the items.

Assessment Activity

Ask students to reflect on these questions:

  • Do you think the way historians or researchers interpret primary sources is always correct, or do you think there is a chance they confuse or don’t understand the meaning? 
  • Do you think the metadata archivists ask for when you donate something to an archive will help people in the future to correctly understand its meaning?
  • Do you think it will be harder or easier for archives, libraries and museums to save primary sources that are born digital, like most of the stuff we create today? Why do you think that?  
  • How long do you think this post would last “in the wild”? Would you expect it to last very long, or want it to last?
  • How do you feel about people looking at and studying your thoughts and feelings, in 10, 20, 50 or 100 years from now? Is it weird or cool?

Citation

Maine Contemporary Archives Collaborative, “#COVIDStories: Creating Primary Sources for the Future,” Maine Contemporary Archives, accessed June 15, 2021, https://ourmainearchives.omeka.net/items/show/53.

Output Formats