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Accessing Inquiry

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Strategies for Access

Poster of soldier with one leg facing a vibrant horizon. Facing the Future – Library of Congress.


Supporting Good Teaching of ALL Learners

History, social studies, and the humanities present unique challenges to struggling learners: complex stories, abstract concepts such as “citizenship,” a huge disciplinary vocabulary, and  an extensive need for background knowledge. Since our founding in 1974, the Collaborative has supported good teaching of ALL learners. Emerging America took up this work for history education in 2006 and has expanded our efforts continuously ever since.

The Accessing Inquiry project advances this work as the focus of the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program at the Collaborative. Emerging America built this digital resource to provide ongoing support for K-12 teachers of history, social studies, and humanities to challenge and nurture struggling learners.

Come back often for new resources, and sign up for the online version of the Accessing Inquiry for Students with Disability through Primary Sources course.

The Teaching with Primary Sources Teachers Network, an online forum for sharing resources, ideas, activities, and inquiry strategies, has a discussion forum for the Accessing Inquiry course in the Disability History interest group. To access it, register, log in, and select “GROUPS” from the top menu, where you can add Disability History as one of your groups. Once you are logged in, you can also link straight to the Disability History interest group.

Elements of the Accessing Inquiry Strategies resource


Accessible Curriculum

Based on work with the teachers of the Massachusetts Special Education in Institutional Settings (SEIS) program and on participation by Special Education and English as a Second Language teachers in numerous Emerging America workshops, has an expanding set of model lessons, assessments, classroom activities, and recommendations for other resources focused on making inquiry accessible to all learners through primary sources. You can search for intentionally accessible resources on a range of topics using the Teaching Resources Search Tool on this website.

In partnership with the Library of Congress and the Disability History Museum, Emerging America is growing its library of resources that teach History, Civics, and Social Studies topics in the core curriculum with a focus on the role disability and people with disabilities have played in shaping events.

Model Lessons that incorporate Disability History

Find resources on Disability History through the Teaching Resources Search Tool cited above by entering “disability” in the search window.  Available lesson plans and source sets include:

To see how these lesson plans are aligned with content standards for coverage of history content, see how these lessons are matched to the Massachusetts’ 2018 standards for History and Social Science. Download chart.

Face-to-Face Professional Development

Since 2011, we have taught 15-hour courses–now called Accessing Inquiry–throughout Massachusetts and across the U.S. See our CES course registration page for current offerings. Earn optional graduate credit in history from Westfield State University. These courses meet Massachusetts relicensure requirements. Contact Director Rich Cairn to arrange training in your school district or state

  • Accessing Inquiry for Students with Disabilities through Primary Sources
  • Accessing Inquiry for English Learners through Primary Sources



Upcoming Workshops

The Massachusetts Board of Education passed a new Social Studies Curriculum Framework in June 2018 that mandates the teaching of social studies in all grades, i…
Date and Location This training is fully online and will take place from September 20, 2019 through December 15, 2019. There are two scheduled online sessions p…
Date and Location This training is fully online and will take place from October 1, 2019 through November 11, 2019. There are two scheduled online sessions part…