Bridging the Gap Project Update

Students in the Reuther reading room

This fall a project group made up of Reuther archivists and Wayne State College of Education faculty launched the Bridging the Gap Project, an effort to bring archivists and teachers together to craft relevant primary source-focused for K-12 students. The project is funded by the National Historic Publications and Records Commission.

Building on 5 years of experience pairing College of Education Teacher Education students with archival materials, groups of students were asked to create lesson plans or unit plans incorporating material from the Reuther. We’d like to share some of these innovative ideas.

Dr. Min Yu’s course focused on Social Studies curriculum. With middle-school aged students in mind, groups focused on broad concepts like community. Students would interview elders in their lives for a very local view of community and zoom out to a regional view through studying the construction of the Renaissance Center in Detroit. Another group suggested building a classroom clothesline to represent the connections between times, people, and places in the region. In this scenario, K-12 students would have the chance to contribute their own understanding and engage with a physical representation of the complexities inherent in social studies.

Dr. Crowley’s class brings together teacher education students of all subjects, so groups took on a naturally interdisciplinary approach. Some groups combined music, history, and reading to consider the lyrics of popular Motown songs and connect them to demands for racial justice at work and in unions represented in the Detroit Revolutionary Movements records.[link] Another group taught social studies, math, and environmental science by studying development in Detroit in the 1970s. They proposed projects where K-12 students consider pollution data and employment data while studying historical documents about developing the riverfront area. Students would then create visualizations of this information such as interactive maps.

The group is excited about the possibilities and, as always, inspired by the innovative approach teacher ed students bring to the project. Over the next year and a half, the project will incorporate in-service teacher groups and launch a beta website that will host teacher-generated lessons. If you are a teacher and would like to participate, contact For further updates on the project, follow our Twitter account @archivesinclass.