Online Course: Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects

Smithsonian X


How can you help your students to see history as a living, breathing record of the past? How can you motivate students to ask probing questions and seek complex answers? How can you bridge their historical knowledge with a lifelong commitment to civic action? Secondary social studies teachers looking for answers to these questions will find new ways to engage students in and out of the classroom in this online professional development course, "Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects." Co-taught by Dr. Kathy Swan, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Kentucky, and Naomi Coquillon, Manager of Youth and Teacher Programs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, "Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects" will offer teachers accessible strategies and tactics for incorporating inquiry-based learning methods into their existing history lessons.

The course brings together the new College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies with the Smithsonian’s hands-on, museum-based educational techniques that bring historical artifacts to life for millions of visitors each year. Through explanation, demonstration, and dynamic examples, the course offers teachers practical ideas for how to entice students to craft complex and incisive questions; think critically about primary and secondary historical sources; form and support their opinions with evidence; and communicate their conclusions in ways that will prepare them to be engaged citizens of the world. Demonstrations will feature the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s exhibitions and vast collection of historical artifacts and will offer ideas and resources to help teachers everywhere incorporate object- and inquiry-based teaching techniques and Smithsonian online resources into their own classrooms.

Course Dates & Requirements

October 6 - November 17, 2015; time commitment: 3-4 hours per week

To Register

Visit the course page


This course is designed for Secondary School Social Studies teachers or prospective teachers. However, the concepts discussed in the course have relevance for a range of educators, and we welcome all with an interest in education.

Course Instructors

Kathy SwanKathleen Owings Swan, Ph.D, University of Kentucky College of Education

Dr. Kathy Swan is an associate professor of curriculum and instruction and the Director of Next Generation Teacher Preparation at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on standards-based technology integration, authentic intellectual work, and documentary-making in the social studies classroom. Swan has been a four-time recipient of the National Technology Leadership Award in Social Studies Education, innovating with web-based interactive technology curricula including the Historical Scene Investigation Project, the Digital Directors Guild, and Digital Docs in a Box. Her co-authored book And Action! Doing Documentaries in the Social Studies Classroom and children’s series Thinking Like A Citizen were published in fall 2013. She is also the advisor for the Social Studies Assessment, Curriculum, and Assessment Collaborative (SSACI) at the Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) and was the project Director/Lead Writer of the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards.

Naomi CoquillonNaomi Coquillon, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian

Naomi is the Manager of Youth and Teacher Programs at Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Through the A. James Clark Excellence in History Teaching Program and the Smithsonian's History Explorer website team, Naomi designs and delivers workshops for K-12 teachers nationwide, develops online materials for K-12 classrooms, and conducts online outreach to educators. Naomi leads the museum's annual National Youth Summit, which brings together middle and high school students with scholars, teachers, policy experts and activists, in a national conversation about events in America's past that have relevance to the nation's present and future. Naomi holds Masters degrees in history from the University of Maryland, College Park and in museum education from Bank Street College of Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Literature from Harvard College. Prior to joining the education department at the National Museum of American History, Naomi was a classroom teacher and served as the Director for Educational Resources at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.