Teaching the Next Generation about the Power of FOIA

foia-infographic2Earlier this year, the National Archives committed in both the Third U.S. Open Government National Action Plan and its Fourth Agency Open Government Plan to develop tools to help teach the next generation about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The tools will draw upon real-world examples that foster democracy and explain how the public can use FOIA to learn more about the government’s actions.

As part of meeting this commitment, we developed an infographic that explains basic facts about the public’s rights under FOIA and what to expect during the process. The infographic uses plain language and graphics intended to help students easily understand the basic concepts of FOIA and where they can find more information about how to ask for copies of agency records.

The plan is to integrate the infographic into lesson plans that are available through DocsTeach, an online tool created by the National Archives’ Education and Public Programs division that offers teachers student activities using materials from the National Archives Catalog. Teachers can also use the tool to create their own activity to expand student understanding of a topic while also sharpening their document analysis techniques, improving their understanding of primary source documents in historical context, and more.

The first activity using the infographic will explore the public’s response to the civil rights marches beginning in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. In response to FOIA requests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a number of records detailing the events that occurred in Selma.

If you have any other suggestions of records in the Catalog that will help students understand the role of records in improving understanding of the government’s actions, we encourage you to join the conversation on History Hub, the National Archives’ online community for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, and open government advocates.

We look forward to hearing from you, and to announcing release of the first lesson plan that incorporates FOIA.

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