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Using the ARDA to Learn How to Research the World


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When I first started homeschooling, and certainly “back in the day” when I was in school, it could be said that “content was king.” Meaning, in this case, that education was heavily focused on filling up the buckets of students’ minds, and then testing to see how well we’d memorized things.

Those days are over.

With the advent of the computer age came the ability for our knowledge base to grow at astronomical rates. These days, the students who succeed will not be the ones with the best memories, but the ones with the best research skills. (*Read further on for an interesting example of why this is so important!)

But teaching that skill may be challenging at best for homeschoolers. While there are many curricula that serve to fill the bucket of knowledge, where do we find tools to help us teach our kids WHERE to find the facts and HOW to analyze the information they will need in their future lives and careers?

Can Free Teaching Resources “Cut It”?

Free teaching resources abound.  But just as we are teaching our kids to discern, here, too, it most certainly depends on the source!  What you need to look for in a quality teaching tool is one that uses a variety of data sources, and helps your student develop multiple skills such as:

  • critical reading abilities
  • critical thought and analyzing abilities
  • Internet research skills
  • working well with others in a small group

While it may be very easy to find tools to teach these skills individually, when it comes time to middle- and high-schooler aged students, it’s important to find one that can combine these skills and teach them in a relevant way.

Teaching American Religion as a Science

So if you’re faced right now (or soon!) with the task of teaching middle- and high-schoolers, you will definitely want to take a look at the ARDA. (ARDA stands for “Association for Religion Data Archives” – I’ll be using ARDA in the rest of this post 😉 )

The ARDA is a free, university-endorsed resource developed through grant funding, and initially as a data archive for researchers. What all that means is that these people know their stuff!  Particularly exciting to me, however, is how they have crafted all this content into a variety of ways to teach our kids those all-important skills mentioned above!

And while you may not be teaching “religion as science”, or even religion as a subject per se, in this election year I think you’ll agree that the combination of church and state is a very relevant topic. The ARDA takes the topics of teaching American religion and presenting data on American religion, and runs with it – so the lessons and skillls learned from the ARDA materials can very easily find wider applications.

Moms, don’t be intimidated by the goal of teaching your kids how to manage research and discernment in today’s age of free-and-easy access to information!  

The lessons and skillls learned from the ARDA materials can very easily find wider applications... Click To Tweet

The ARDA has a great learning center that provides historical timelines, “QuickStats” on a variety of issues, a Dictionary, interactive surveys and, my favorite: actual lesson plans at their Teaching Tools page that tie everything together. For homeschool teachers like me who may sometimes need a little direction, they have great tutorials, too – some presented in Word, some via video – to teach you how to make the most of the site. They give you the tools and materials you need to enjoy teaching and working through the lessons with confidence and knowledge!

Personally, I’m a map-and geography junkie from way back, and another one of the areas I love is a link I found in one of the lesson plans. As you can see below, the ARDA uses maps as another way to display some of their information and statistics. You can choose to display one of 5 sections of the world, and have about 18 different variables to display.


And just why is this* so important?

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot!

Quick (true) story: once upon a time a homeschool parent was teaching her kids about the Age of Explorers. She encouraged them to do some internet research as part of their studies. Not too long into their work, one of the children ran to her, eager to share a most wonderful site! It was obviously kid-centered, and contained information on one of the explorers they were studying! Teacher-mom and said child began reading the information together, and pretty soon (mom, at least) realized something was amiss. Wanting to see if her student noticed anything, she remained silent about this as they continued. Replete with misinformation, it wasn’t until repeated questioning by mom that her kids realized MOST of the information in the site was incorrect. And, in fact, the site was a hoax! Well, it was actually a project by a school district to teach internet literacy to their 5th grade students.  

Guess you figured out the teacher was me…and the child was one of mine 😉

That experience was an important lesson in how critical and necessary good research skills are and will be to students in the future. Our children need to know how to “see through” statistics and surveys and analyze information that is presented in a myriad of formats.

The ARDA is the perfect, and how-wonderful-that-it’s-free, tool to do just that!  Check them out today 🙂

Find even more info and teacher helps from the Arda on Facebook.

  Connect with and follow them on Twitter!

(Note: We make no claims for the sites below. These are offered as additional suggested teacher helps.)

Teaching History to Middle- and High-School aged students?  This is a helpful list of 10 Free Resources to Teach American History!

Need more resources to teach internet literacy/research skills? Here are some more resources:

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Pat is a Yankee city-girl who has been adopted by the sleepy, sunny south. Married for 30 years and the mother of 5, she woke up one day recently to discover she reached the stage of life where she is the “older woman” described in Titus 2:3-5. A coffee lover, the purchase of a coffee shop a few years ago was her personal foray into the small, family-owned business arena.Today, PatAndCandy.com is her outlet for packaging up and sharing the nuggets of wisdom God and life experiences have taught her.
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2 Responses to Using the ARDA to Learn How to Research the World

  1. Beth @ Pages and Margins February 18, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

    Fascinating! I’ve never heard of this before, but I’m definitely checking it out. Love the story about your kids and the hoax site — it can be a real learning curve to figure out which are the legitimate sources of info on the internet!
    Beth @ Pages and Margins recently posted…Picture Books about KoreaMy Profile

    • Pat February 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

      Is is a wonderful resource, Beth! At first I thought it might be limiting, because it only covered one particular topic. But it’s actually a good thing, because there is so much involved in teaching research skills…it’d be overwhelming any other way!

      And I WISH that story about my kids was a joke…I’m just glad they got “sucked in” to something as innocuous as it is…

      I’d love to hear what you think of the site after you get a chance to look at it…
      Thanks for stopping by – have a great week!
      Pat recently posted…10 TED Talks Your Teen Needs to Watch Before GraduationMy Profile

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