Forget the old public school model of learning history by memorizing facts. The Historical Thinking Matters Web site lets students do what real historians do: read the historical evidence and decide for themselves.

Right now the site, a joint project of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the School of Education at Stanford University, focuses on four pivotal events in American history: the Spanish-American War, the Scopes Trial, the enactment of Social Security and Rosa Parks’s role in the civil rights movement. Students start with a slick film overview worthy of a public television documentary and then get right to primary documents to learn not just what happened, but why.

With information for both students and teachers, the site is a nifty example of the Open Educational Resources movement supported by numerous grants from the Hewlett Foundation’s Education Program.

Visit it at