Classroom Activities

Reconstructing History:
The Wright Brothers' First Flight

Welcome to the Wright Brothers Research Lesson, "Reconstructing History: The Wright Brothers' First Flight." In this lesson, you'll discover how historians reconstruct history from primary and secondary sources. You'll get a chance to be a historian and create a history of the Wrights' first flights.
On December 17, 2003, the world celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight. Their story is legendary: two bicycle makers from Ohio who changed the world with their historic flights in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Their accomplishment: flying the first heavier-than-air, powered aircraft to achieve sustained, controlled flight with a pilot aboard.

How do we know this history? We learn about the Wright brothers from books, films, museum exhibits, and websites. But how do historians reconstruct events? How do historians know what really happened? Why do historical accounts differ? Don't the facts speak for themselves?

In this lesson, you'll learn why history is more than facts. You'll learn how historians interpret "facts" to reconstruct historical events. You'll have an opportunity to examine and interpret primary and secondary source documents about the Wright brothers. Using these documents and working in groups, you'll write a historical narrative of the Wrights' first flights. Then, you'll apply the skills you've learned, from analyzing primary and secondary source documents to evaluating the reliability of websites.

In this lesson you'll:

1. Evaluate Evidence: analyze some documents used by historians to reconstruct the Wright's historic flight.

2. Be a Historian: take the role of a historian and use evidence to construct a history of the Wright brothers' flight.

3. Compare Historical Narratives: discuss similarities and differences among narratives with classmates.

4. Evaluate Wright Websites for reliability.

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