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The Minnesota Communities website has been undertaken with the intent of reaching several goals. An effort is being made to digitize and make available to the public at large images of Minnesota Historical Society collection materials such as documents, photographs, and artifacts. It is also the site's intent to present teachers and students with materials that can be used not only to supplement history units taught in the classroom (primarily Minnesota history) but also to provide teacher materials that will support the proposed Minnesota Graduation Standards.
To reach these goals, the site has been organized around the theme "Communities." A community will basically correspond to a geographic region of the state, since the material available for research is most easily accessed and organized along geographical regions. However, "communities" is a topic which more accurately relates to people than places. Therefore the story of the geographic regions will be told through the eyes of people who lived there, although documents such as maps and photographs will be available to describe the physical area. The site will focus on three primary areas of the lives of the people presented: their biographical data, their livelihood, and the major events that shaped the world during their lives.
The site will also offer conveniences that make the material easily accessible. This will be achieved through features like a bibliography, photographic tours of each community, an image Gallery, and an About page with help, including a site map.
As the site is intended to help teachers, a Teachers page will present materials that can be used in leading class discussions, working independently on the computer, or creating materials that will aid in reaching the Graduation Standards.
Educational materials provided at the site will be graduation standard compliant and written toward a number of learning styles and ability levels. Teachers will be able to access lesson plans and enrichment activities corresponding to the site and also get information about possible alternative uses for site materials and lessons. While the lessons are designed to enhance, not replace, classroom textbooks, the site has the potential to be used as a freestanding unit of study. Teachers will be allowed access to lesson keys, explanations and classroom hints for the expansion of the methods and materials presented. While the communities studied are necessarily geographical in basis, the thematic focus of the site will be designed to be relevant to teachers throughout the state for their classroom study of Minnesota and American history.
The units located in the student areas of the site include digitized primary sources and their transcripts, as well as photographs, data and map materials designed to enhance understanding of the historical context into which the personalities and topics selected are placed.
Cause and effect relationships, compare and contrast situations and higher order thinking skills will be used to formulate and execute the activities for each section. Background information pertaining to events of the time and ideological movements pertinent to the historical situation will be provided as a means to further explain the historical inquiry process.
It has been shown that students find more relevance in material that is presented with an "eye" toward the applicability of the information toward modern life. The selection of information and sources for this site will be generated through the study of materials that would relate to the target audience in a given manner. Students must be able to sense a "reality" in the lives of the people they are studying in order to make that historical inquiry process effective for them and to retain the information they are able to gather. The use of materials with sound historical relevance in relation to the educational goals of this project and the target audience will be one method of implementing the goal of encouraging historical inquiry processes in the students utilize the site.