Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Character in Leadership
Judy Zeih
Social Studies
Time Frame:
4-6 weeks
Truman Footlocker

Grade Levels:
4, 5, 6

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

To complete our classroom's Truman Trivia Facts on Character in Leadership on the Project Whistlestop Web Site, we created a Project-Based Learning activity that would involve secondary and primary resources, technology, cooperative learning, and role playing. This unit allowed the students to view all forms of resources.

Our unit began with an encyclopedia scavenger hunt to a secondary resource activity on Truman, using maps, timelines, newspapers, historical non-fiction books, graphs, charts, and almanacs. Then, for the next few days, we investigated information about Truman from bookmarked addresses on the internet. While the students were working on the internet, the Truman Footlocker came to our room.

The students were very excited about the trunk and couldn't wait to see what was inside. After we learned about resources, the students discussed the early years of Truman character traits in leadership. They were teamed up in cooperative groups, researched leadership traits, and then published them on the Project Whistlestop site. The culminating activity included a presentation of Truman's early life and his leadership qualities.


To teach students about Harry S. Truman

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Missouri Standards

Standards: Social studies 2,6,7
Communication Arts: 1,3,4,6
Fine Arts: 5

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 4: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

5. (A) observes and draws conclusions.

6. (A) uses research skills to interpret an historical person or event in history and notes the source(s) of information (e.g., discusses ideas; formulates broad and specific questions; determines a variety of sources; locates, evaluates, organizes records and shares relevant information in both oral and written form).


Benchmark 1: The effective communicator is knowledgeable about available sources.

  1. references specialized sources of information.

Benchmark 2: The effective communicator knows how to use sources from a variety of media and formats.

  1. uses appropriate sources from electronic, print, and expert categories of information for purposes, audiences, occasions, and contexts.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

encyclopedias, almanacs, newpapers, atlas, time line

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Truman footlocker

To the best of my ability video about Truman

Technology Required:

computers, digital equipment, camcorder, Hyperstudio and ClarisWorks programs, Encyclopedias,dictionaries, almanacs

Full description of activity or assignment.


  1. Secondary resources: To help the students understand how to find information, a few days were spent on research. Project Whistlestop's Students as Researchers helped us get started. Encyclopedias- we had a lesson on using encyclopedias and how to narrow a topic. Almanacs, newspapers, atlas, time line and other resources were discussed. We discussed and compared the formats for each resource keeping in mind publishing dates and who created the resources. A scavenger hunt was provided in the classroom using secondary resources and prewritten questions about Truman. Students were paired up and had to answer the questions, writing provided information and the resource.The information found from the questions was used with the Trivia Facts later. To the Best of My Ability tape was presented about Truman after a KWL was used. Internet was introduced only after students were sent home with a parent letter, were taught how to pull up bookmarked sites, and had time to view site. To save time, sites were bookmarked and questions were created prior to class time.
  2. Primary Resources: Student Footlockers were made by students demonstrating their lifestyles and hobbies with ticket stubs,coupons,letters, receipts, etc. The students had to guess which box belonged to whom and what it would tell about that person 50 years from now. Truman Footlocker was then brought in from the Truman Library. After students were given opportunity to have "hands-on" time with the Truman reproductions, they were placed in teams and observed, inquired, and documented information about certain grouped items. Then, they shared their findings with the class. We discussed what other resources could be used to pursue further research on the footlocker items. Speaker - A student's grandmother came in and discussed the Great Depression and her knowledge about Truman in the 30's and 40's. Truman B Files- Letters, documents, photographs, and newspaper articles were observed and notes were taken. Internet- Project Whistlestop sites with primary sources on Truman were viewed and discussed using prewritten questionnaire.
  3. Trivia Facts: Students brainstormed the meaning of leadership, created a class list of character leadership traits, and then discussed and wrote about leaders they knew. Students were placed in cooperative teams and given 2 Truman leadership character traits to do research on. The teams had access to books, the Project Whistlestop site, pictures, documents, newspaper articles, and letters. Once they found their information, they wrote down the resource and the facts in paragraph form. An editing lesson was given to finalize their written work. The facts were then published on the Project Whistlestop Trivia Fact site.
  4. Truman Play:Students put on a Truman play that was a culminating activity involving information from their research and facts. Parents and other classrooms were invited to the presentation.
  5. Technology:Students became familiar with the internet through the Project Whistlestop site, used the digital camera camcorder for documentation of activities, ClarisWorks for facts and advertisement of play, and Hyperstudio to present the information they learned about Truman. They also added new questions on to a Truman scavenger hunt provided by the Project Whistlestop site and e-mailed it to their key pal school.
    • Resources: Truman library B files Project Whistlestop Web site Various Truman books from the school library To the Best of My Ability tape Grandparent Speaker
    • Conclusion:This was a very successful project based learning unit on research with secondary and primary resources, and technology. Integrating technology into the research helped students to operate, locate, evaluate, and collect from a variety of resources. They were also able to use the technology resources to solve problems and make decisions. The students had ownership in the activities, and positive hands-on and cooperative experiences.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Assessment and Reflection:Secondary Resource scavenger hunt answer sheet Character trait questions to use with Internet research A Project Evaluation form was provided to show evidence of research, knowledge of technology used, and relaying the material to an audience.