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7 geography tools that mess with the brains of your kids. Cause that’s a good thing

We all know that I spent a significant amount of my formative years digging through old National Geographic maps. You know the ones I’m talking about. They got slipped into the middle of the magazine and unfolded into poster size after you discovered them. I still have an old shoebox full of them. Cause they’re just so cool.

So it shouldn’t surprise any of you that an online article about maps, especially one from National Geographic, is going to catch my attention. But before we head over to take a look, a quick geography mental map quiz.


First step, create a mental map of the world. (If you’ve got a few extra minutes and some paper and pencil, feel free to draw it out.)

Mental map ready?

Okay . . . based on your mental (or actual) map of the world, answer a few simple questions:

  • How much of South America is east of Miami, Florida?
  • How much of Africa is north of the equator?
  • Which city is located further north – Paris, France or Montreal, Canada?
  • Venice, Italy is located at the same latitude of what major American city?
  • Which is bigger? The lower 48 United States or Brazil?

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5 anti-resolutions for social studies teachers that you should break immediately

I’ve never been a New Year’s resolution kind of guy. New Year’s Day has always been too full of football, Chex Mix, drink, more football, family, friends, traditional Menno New Year’s cookies with blueberries instead of raisins, and then maybe a couple more games of college football. I’ve got no time for resolutions.

But anti-resolutions? Statements designed to be broken immediately? Heck, yeah. I’ve got time for those. Anti-resolutions are perfect for kicking off 2021.

Here’s the deal. I don’t think we sit down often enough and reflect on our practice. And I know January 2021 might not seem like a good time for that. Nine months of pandemic impacted schedules has put all of us in a bit of a cranky mood. I get that.

But in a lot of ways, this is the perfect time to think about the hidden culture and unwritten rules that are part of our classrooms. What’s working? What’s not? When it all gets back to “normal,” what sorts of things really aren’t that important any more (and might even be detrimental?)

I’m convinced that no teacher wants to be ineffective. But I’m also convinced that we sometimes allow things to just happen in the middle of the year because we’ve got so much going on . . . especially this school year. The silver lining of all the Covid scheduling, multiple lesson planning, student attendance issues, missing resources, and clunky tech has been that we have literally been given permission to do things differently. To try stuff we haven’t tried before. Assess learning in alternative ways. Use a variety of resources and materials. To redesign how we do school.

And I know it’s hard to see right now. But your classroom will and should look different a year from now.

So make a few anti-resolutions yourself. Then make plans for breaking them. Need some ideas? Browse five of my anti-resolutions: Read more

You’ve got a bit of free time – perfect opportunity to head over to Anti-Social Studies. (Cause you need their stuff!)

In any normal year, December 28th is a chance to spend time with family, eat boat loads of Chex Mix, watch football, and read one or two of the new books I received as gifts.

Yeah, well . . . some of that is going to happen. But things are different enough that there’s a lot less family and way more Chex Mix. The good news is that I get the chance to explore some of the resources I’ve been dropping in my Pocket over the last few months. And I may have just stumbled onto a new favorite.

An earlier post this fall highlighted some of my favorite podcasts. Well . . . I missed one. Read more

24 primary source archives you might have missed

Sure. We’ve all been to the Library of Congress digital archives. We all use the super handy National Archives’ Teaching With Documents section that shares lesson plans explaining historical events through primary documents.

And who doesn’t already spend hours at the Smithsonian Learning Lab and their History Explorer? Google’s Art and Culture is another rabbit hole waiting to happen. Of course, we all love DocsTeach.

But there are so many other places to find online primary sources. So. So. Many.

So many that it’s sometimes easier to just stick to the old reliables. So today you get 24 digital primary sources archives that tell the stories of people and groups that we sometimes miss when we stick to the old reliables.

Because the stories our kids need to hear should include more than just the dead white guys we grew up with. Nothing wrong with old white guys (you’ll find some below and I happen to know a couple of really nice old white guys) but don’t be afraid to grow your list to include the experiences of all sorts of people who make up the American narrative. Read more