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20 Questions for Reading and Evaluating Primary Sources

The “20 Questions” series of worksheets from George Washington’s Mount Vernon are designed to guide students through a structured exploration of primary sources. Each set of questions move from concrete observations to analyses of people that lived in the past. The last questions ask students to make larger conclusions about the culture of the time in order to inform a final writing prompt. Included with each worksheet are primary sources from George Washington’s world.

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A Grub Hoe

This activity is designed to question students' assumptions on how labor was divided at Mount Vernon. Students will look at an artifact (the grub hoe) and then analyze primary and secondary sources to reinterpret that artifact. They will learn that enslaved women primary worked in the fields, while enslaved men usually did "skilled" tasks. This is an activity that will illustrate how gender binaries are constructed and have changed throughout history. It also reinforces students' STEM skills, such as percentages and ratios. 

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Bullet Journaling with Washington

This activity connects students to George Washington's meticulous record keeping by equating it with modern day bullet journaling. Students will look at a 1793 Farm Report that was made by one of Washington's overseers and sent to Washington while he was President. Students will then keep a bullet journal for a week to experiment recording their own information. By reflecting on their experience, they will be able to get a better understanding of Washington.

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George Washington, Public Space, and National Identity

Washington has been a symbol of the United States since the moment of its founding. Students explore the value of civic conversations about historic symbols in monuments of George Washington in our world today. Through the analysis of primary sources and a creative civics activity, this learning resource empowers students to see themselves as citizens whose voices matter and who have agency to participate in civic conversations.

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Washington and Mount Vernon as National Symbols of Liberty and Enslavement

This learning resource connects the concept of informed civic agency to George Washington’s significance as a national symbol in rhetoric. Two leading 19th-century African-American orators provide different perspectives on George Washington’s legacy in the century after his death. Through the analysis of primary sources and a creative civics activity, this learning resource empowers students to see themselves as citizens whose voices matter and who have agency to collaboratively confront problems in our world today.

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Which Grace: Analysis of Historical Resources

A lesson challenging students to analyze primary and secondary sources to answer the question How many enslaved individuals named Grace, Isaac, and Suckey were there at Mount Vernon from 1750-1799? Using information available to researchers and scholars at the Washington Library, students become historians as they work to answer a question that has no definitive answer. As an optional extension, students can create a biography about one of the individuals identified in their research. 

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