One of the best things public libraries do is help people get their schooling after they've left school. Whether they were in traditional schools, homeschools or charter schools, are school dropouts or adult lifelong learners, all readers can find an entire education in a good public library. And one of the best and cheapest resources for learners is government information. It's reliable, it's in the public domain, and it is free.
K-12 and homeschool teachers should know that many government agencies provide ready-to-use classroom materials. Most is targeted to K-12, but primary sources also are good for high school, college, and adult learners. Most agency websites, plus usa.gov, opens a new window, have direct links to ready-to-use educational resources.
In addition to general information, individual agencies may concentrate on types of content, like multimedia, statistical data, opens a new window, legal resources, or peer-reviewed research articles.
A significant benefit of using government information is the chance to learn about history from a variety of perspectives. Cultural agencies like the Library of Congress, opens a new window or the 21 museums that form the Smithsonian Institution, opens a new window provide ready-made primary source materials for all ages.
All kinds of STEM topics are covered by the science agencies. Here are some examples.
- Find out how to spot counterfeit money at the USCurrency.gov, opens a new window.
- Find calculators and budgeting worksheets for everything from taxes and investing to auto loans and managing household spending using MyMoney.gov, opens a new window.
- Watch a video of a beating heart with arrhythmia at MedlinePlus, opens a new window.
- Get a description of heart bypass surgery, with detailed diagrams, at the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, opens a new window.
- Teach and learn about the special doctors who care for horses and cows - or maybe zoo elephants, or manatees in Florida - at the Center for Veterinary Medicine's Kid's Page, opens a new window.
- Play Grocery Store Bingo, linked from the Nutrition.gov, opens a new window portal.
- Create a fitness activity plan at MoveYourWay, opens a new window.
- Take a virtual 3D virtual tour of the International Space Station using the NASA At Home, opens a new window portal.
- Learn about planets outside our solar system with National Science Foundation classroom resources, opens a new window.
- Airplane buffs can find an amateur-built aircraft kit, opens a new window or look up runway hot spots, opens a new window.
- Download a game that teaches air traffic control, opens a new window.
- Take virtual tours of Merchant Marine ships, opens a new window.
- Learn about boating safety, opens a new window from the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Build your own Particulate Matter (PM) Air Sensor, opens a new window and measure pollution in the air you breathe.
- Find some short videos about wetlands, opens a new window.
- Watch a video showing the basket star, opens a new window, an amazing creature made of a mass of twisting and turning arms that can measure up to 3 feet long.
- Learn how to identify different clouds, opens a new window and what they mean.
- Explore videos and interactive maps about climate change and its effects, opens a new window.
- Research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, opens a new window led to digital scanned images, pigeon bombers during World War II, and proof that a curveball really curves.
- Participate in building the National Map as part of The National Map Corps, opens a new window, an online crowdsourcing mapping project with volunteers successfully editing structures in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Watch real-time conditions during natural hazard events, opens a new window or view before-and-after images, opens a new window.
- Explore facts about the states, opens a new window, such as population breakdowns, types of businesses, how people get to work, and state bird.
- Find a DIY (do-it-yourself) home energy project, opens a new window.
Government information is great for study of the law, opens a new window and how the government works, opens a new window. And how many native-born Americans can pass the citizenship test, opens a new window demanded of immigrants? If not, there are study guides, opens a new window for that.
So, if you want your research to be more than a quick google search, try a government resource! Many digitized government publications are available through the library's catalog, opens a new window. And usa.gov, opens a new window is a good portal to sites for getting started in lifelong learning.
(Thanks to Kelly Bilz, Reference & Government Documents Librarian at The Benedictine Library, for inspiration.)