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The genesis in this book was when the head of the Children’s Department at the Pasadena Pubic Library asked the local history librarian to put together a brief little handout for fourth graders doing their state-mandated local history project.
He really didn’t do that.
This book reflects his belief that children, who can endlessly discuss Minecraft, have the ability to use the computer to solve “real” problems, and the best way to engage students of any age is through questions where they are provided the tools to answer, but not necessarily the answers themselves, to questions.
History is best experienced as a mystery to be solved, not as a series of facts to be memorized.
Overall, the first few chapters go over how to research Pasadena online and how by using the computer one can learn about one’s self, house, family and neighborhood in Pasadena.
Next is a discussion critical thinking in terms of historical evidence: What errors, half-truths or lies look like, and what to do then. Here's that chapter as a rather large pdf. Please note the illustrations in the printed version will be in Black & White.
Then using those research techniques one is introduced to more specific parts of Pasadena’s history: It’s Buildings; Neighborhoods; Rose Parade; Crime; Women; Pasadena at War; Sports; Ethnic Communities; Visitors; Churches; Creative Communities; Economy; Schools and finally Government. Here is the section on Art and Artists.
There are also Suggested Activities scattered throughout the book. These are activities that build on the subject just presented and then invite one to do something more. There will be historic recipes or costumes to try, neighborhoods to explore, songs or stories based on Pasadena to write, sports no longer played to try, or Pasadena artists or architects whose style to learn by making images in their style, among others. for instance here is a newspaper article written June 6, 1923 in the Pasadena Evening Post in the run up to the election that was to pay for the Pasadena Civic Center:
The Suggested Activity that goes with this clip is to learn the song and then to sing it at City Hall. It is pointed out that the acoustics in the rotunda are especially good, and that is anyone asks, tell them that this was the song that helped pay for the building.
There are also questions scattered randomly throughout the text. Questions like:
413. What blemish nearly cost horse loving Princess Cindy Gillette her spot in the 1961 Rose Parade?
help: Gillette, cindy
In this case, the reader has to go to the Pasadena News Index and type Gillette, cindy (the space after the coma is important) to find the answer.
Alternatively, one could purchase Pasadena History Headline Quiz which has the answers to all the questions already written out.
Finally there are Insider's Tips and Notes to the Reader. While the book is rather explicit in HOW to search online, there are also explanations on WHY the search came up the results that it did; Boolean searching; limits of the computer; advantages and disadvantages of different search strategies and tips on using non-computer resources are all included in their own font in a friendly and accessible style.
By the end, and even if one skips most of the chapters, questions and activities, the reader will have a much greater appreciation for Pasadena and its history. The reader will also have experienced the joy of a historian solving mysteries, and who knows, maybe even figured out some mysteries from Pasadena’s history no one has solved yet.
It is suggested that this book be read in conjunction with Pasadena History Headline Quiz.
Available at amazon and the Pasadena Museum of History Bookstore. A genuine bargain at $20.