Calisphere supports classroom activities and research efforts for students from elementary school through higher education.
Calisphere contains hundreds of thousands of primary source materials from libraries, archives, and museums across California. Documents of world events and expressions of human culture, these materials are not limited by subject or scope. That said, the collection is particularly strong in U.S. and California history.
For general information about finding and using materials on Calisphere, visit the FAQ.
A good way for educators and students to start exploring Calisphere is by visiting our exhibitions. The exhibitions present small selections of Calisphere items in historical context, and many of them were originally created expressly for classroom learning. Some of the exhibitions are grouped into bigger themes: California History, California Cultures, and the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA). As you explore the exhibitions, you can dive further down into collections to find more items
Seven historical essays provide background for primary sources related to California history and Japanese American relocation and incarceration:
1768-1820s: Exploration and Colonial California
Relocation and Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II
Before 1768: Pre-Columbian California
1848-1865: Gold Rush, Statehood, and the Western Movement
1821-1847: Missions, Ranchos, and the Mexican War for Independence
1866-1920: Rapid Population Growth, Large-Scale Agriculture, and Integration into the United States
1921-present: Modern California - Migration, Technology, Cities
A selection of lesson plans relate to the content on Calisphere. Please note that some of these lesson plans date to earlier versions of the site and may contain old links. We have tried to redirect these whenever possible.
Los Californios (Grade 4)
"How Do Men Like You Become Great?" (Grades 4-8)
Stealing Home (Grade 8)
Children in the Fields (Grade 4)
The Prints of Self Help Graphics (Grades 9-12)
Are We Americans Again? (Grades 6, 7, and 8)
Views and Voices from Within (Grades 4 and 5)
Beauty Behind Barbed Wire (Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12)
The narrative portions of all of the exhibitions, essays, and lesson plans may be quoted and used in nonprofit educational settings with the appropriate citation (information about authorship and date is included in the "About" section at the bottom of each exhibition, essay, and lesson).
The following worksheets are useful for analyzing different types of primary source materials (all PDF):
Cartoons (Source: NARA)
Photographs (Source: Library of Congress)
Posters/Visuals (Source: Bringing History Home)
Written Documents (Source: NARA)
Primary Source Activity (Source: Library of Congress)
Additionally, both the Library of Congress and the National Archives have developed extensive resources for teaching with archival content (along with impressive primary source collections). We highly recommend visiting their websites for more information.