Lesson Plan by Amy Bhatt, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Student Activity: To use the South Asian American Digital Archive to explore a historic moment of the South Asian American diasporic experience.
Time: 75 minutes
1. Becoming familiar with the SAADA archive and searching for specific items
2. Using sources from class readings and discussions to make links to historical events or phenomenon
3. Gaining a deeper understanding of the experiences of South Asian American immigrants
Supplies for this activity:
1. Access to internet connection
3. Laptops or tablets for small groups of 3-4
4. Projector and computer for instructor
1. 10 min: The instructor starts by giving students an overview of the SAADA. (It may be helpful to ask students to come to class having looked at the website on their own and to choose one or two items of interest).
2. 5 min: Students are asked to choose an artifact that interests them (a pamphlet, a newspaper clipping, a significant photograph). They are asked to keep track of how they searched to find the item and why they are drawn to it.
3. 30 min: Working together, the group will brainstorm why this item is historically significant (if they are looking at a Ghadar party newsletter, for instance, they should be able to make connections to British colonial rule and the movement for independence). Ideally, they will be able to link the artifact’s significance to a course reading, film or discussion.
4. 30 min: Students will prepare a 5 minute presentation for the class to demonstrate the historical significance of their artifact and instructor will facilitate discussion.
Instructor’s Notes on the Activity:
This assignment seeks to enhance students’ skills in making links across various sources and to contextual artifacts in the broader history of South Asian immigration and settlement in the U.S. The South Asian American Digital Archive provides more than a thousand sources related to these processes of migration and community formation. After students report out, the instructor may facilitate a general discussion focusing on:
1. How do we determine what artifacts are significant? Who determines “significance” historically?
2. How do we distinguish “primary” versus “secondary” sources through this assignment?
3. What narratives/themes emerge when looking at the history of South Asian American immigration?
4. Why does it matter to look at these sorts of sources? How does SAADA change/reinforce our understanding of the American experience?
5. Is this form of archiving empowering for communities? Why or why not?
Students may not have much familiarity with South Asian American experiences and the archive may feel overwhelming at first. The instructor may limit the artifacts to a pre-determined list from which students may choose to foster overlap with course themes/materials to ensure that students stay on track. Another issue is technological: in classrooms with less reliable internet access, it may be necessary to choose and print a few copies of artifacts for students to use. Finally, working in small groups with a single computer can pose challenges to keeping each student engaged. One way to mitigate that issue is to assign clear roles from the beginning (researcher, facilitator, recorder, reporter, etc) and to grade the work based on participation and completion.
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