The Historical Scene Investigation Project (HSI) was designed for social studies teachers who need a strong pedagogical mechanism for bringing primary sources into their classroom. With the advent and accessibility of the internet, many libraries, universities and government agencies are housing their historical documents online. Simultaneously, there has been a push in K-12 history education to give students experiences that more closely resemble the work of a real historian. The National Center for History in the Schools (NCHS) provides standards challenging teachers to design experiences in which students:
- to raise questions and to marshal solid evidence in support of their answers
- to go beyond the facts presented in their textbooks and examine the historical record for themselves
- to consult documents, journals, diaries, artifacts, historic sites, works of art, quantitative data, and other evidence from the past, and to do so imaginatively--taking into account the historical context in which these records were created and comparing the multiple points of view of those on the scene at the time (National Center for History in the Schools, 1996, p. 14.
Most social studies teachers accept these challenges but find it difficult to find projects and experiences that are accessible for their students. Researching the "cybraries" of the internet takes time, a precious and scarce resource for the typical social studies teacher. While the Internet provides access to Civil War diaries, newspapers from the 1920's, images from the Jim Crow south, and many other primary sources, the sheer number of possibilities is daunting. Even the most sophisticated search engines provide such a vast number of "hits" that a classroom teacher would find it difficult to gather the necessary resources to launch a primary source investigation/interpretation activity. The HSI project was developed for these teachers.