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Historical Research: A Class Project

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Curricular Materials to Accompany the McIntosh Apple Development Poster
Distributed by the Education Committee of the Botanical Society of America
Posted March 2001

The Project

  1. The web sites listed below have several versions of this historical account which do not agree! This is an excellent example of the problems encountered when one researches any topic. It illustrates why students should never rely on just one source of information when they research a topic on the web or even in the print media. All of these are "secondary" resources. What are "primary" resources?

  2. To make this point more obvious to your students have them do some research on this topic. It will be more fun for them if you do not warn them of the problems in advance!

  3. Divide the class into four research teams, give each team one of the URL addresses below and ask them to go to the site to get answers to the questions on the worksheet. Some of the sites are lacking one or more pieces of information and the four sites disagree on a number of points. What is really remarkable is that these sites are posted by groups that would appear to be authoritative.

  4. When the research teams have found their answers, introduce the questions in class and ask each group to report its findings. You might want to record the results in a large table to facilitate comparison. The students will be amazed to see the large number of discrepancies.

  5. Discuss ways in which these problems could be resolved. Can you determine that one of these sites is more authoritative than the others? Can you find more reliable sources of information on this topic?

Web Sites

Rootabaga Enterprises
(essential text)  (web site)
This is a web site of a cooperative that grows and markets organic and transition fruits and vegetables.
Parks Canada
(essential text)  (web site)
Web site maintained by Parks Canada, a government agency providing information on all of the Canadian parks and historical sites.
All About Apples
(essential text)  (web site)
Richard, "an educator and apple lover in Toronto," maintains this web site with lots of information about the history of apples, how to grow them, world apple production, apple varieties, etc.
Canadian Heirloom Series
(essential text)  (web site)
The relevant excerpt is from Volume 3, "Allegiance: The Ontario Story," of this series on the history of Canada and its culture.  The paragraph on McIntosh appears in Chapter 18 "Kudos: Some Ontario Notables" by Arthur Bousfield.  The Canadian Heirloom Series is part of "Canada's Digital Collection," a remarkable collection of web sites with historical documents, educational materials, and other resources.  Maintained with funding from the Canadian government.