National Museum of American History Encourages Summer Reading Fun with “OurStory” Web Site

June 22, 2009
Summer reading lists are an end-of-school staple as parents, teachers, librarians and others encourage children to continue building their skills. This summer, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History launches the “OurStory” Web site with free, themed activities for exploring American history through reading. “OurStory” activities are designed to engage a wide range of learning styles and typically involve reading a recommended historical fiction book, learning about objects from the museum’s collections, hands-on projects, technology-based explorations and tips for field trips to local museums and historic sites. “OurStory” is available at http://americanhistory.si.edu/ourstory.

The program is targeted to the kindergarten through fourth-grade audience and their adult caregivers at home or after school, but is also appropriate for classroom use. Adults and children are free to pick and choose the books and activities that interest them most. The “OurStory” Web site is the latest evolution of the museum’s “OurStory in History” literacy program.

“Through the ‘OurStory’ Web site, we hope to generate curiosity and interest in learning about American history,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “The Web site encourages children and adults to read and discuss historical literature together, and to explore museums, parks and community resources in support of their learning.”

Current subjects include Abraham Lincoln, the Star-Spangled Banner, life in a World War II Japanese American internment camp, a Puerto Rican carnival, women of the past, New Mexico and Pueblo pots, slave life and the Underground Railroad, sod houses, civil rights and maritime history. New modules will be released throughout the year.

Though the modules are connected to exhibitions or collections at the museum in Washington, D.C., the recommended field trips involve visiting neighborhood resources like the supermarket, town hall or the post office and historic sites in museums near the student’s home.

The “OurStory” Web site is supported by Thinkfinity.org and the Verizon Foundation. Thinkfinity.org is the foundation’s comprehensive program and online portal to more than 55,000 standards-based, grade-specific, K-12 lesson plans and other educational resources provided in partnership with many of the nation’s leading educational and literacy organizations, including the National Museum of American History.

The museum, in partnership with Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org, launched “Smithsonian’s History Explorer” in September 2008. This education Web site offers free, standards-based, innovative resources for teaching and learning American history. Offerings include electronic field trips, exhibition-based activity guides and links to companion Web sites to some of the museum’s most popular exhibitions. “Smithsonian’s History Explorer” was developed under the guidance of a teacher advisory group and made possible by a grant from the Verizon Foundation. The site is accessible at http://historyexplorer.americanhistory.si.edu and via http://thinkfinity.org.

The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its signature program, Thinkfinity.org, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. After a two-year renovation and a dramatic transformation, the museum shines new light on American history, both in Washington and online. To learn more about the museum, check http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).