Okay. I don’t want kids to hate social studies. Let’s be clear about that from the get go. But . . . I also think that we sometimes fall off the wagon on the other end by working way too hard trying to find activities that our kids will enjoy or projects that are “engaging.”
It’s been almost ten years since I first heard Sam Wineburg speak. I had read his book Thinking Historically and Other Unnatural Acts. Read some of his early articles on historical thinking skills and loved his ideas about how we needed to re-think our approach to teaching history. But it wasn’t until a combined Kansas / Missouri Council for History Education conference way back in 2008 that I first heard him speak. He opened the conference with a keynote highlighting the main ideas in his book.
And now, of course, he’s a future social studies Hall of Famer having helped to swing the pendulum of social studies instruction over to something more focused on a balance of both content and process.
But something he said back in 2008 has stuck with me: Read more
Kara Knight from Minnesota History Society and the Inquiry in the Upper Midwest has perhaps created one of the most intriguing conference session titles ever.
What’s not to like about Primary Source Speeding Dating? And her tagline is even better: Discover the Primary Source of your Dreams – Finding the Perfect Match.
I think we can all agree that finding and using primary sources as part of teaching and learning is a no-brainer. But the actual finding and using can be a pain in the butt. It takes time to find the right source and it takes time to figure out how best to use those sources. So during this #MCSS2018 session, we talked about ways to match classroom needs, brain research, and just the right primary source.
We ended the session with an activity Kara called Primary Source Speed Dating. It’s a bit like Read more
We’re always looking for ways to help kids see the big picture. To compare and contrast. Find differences and similarities. To break down stereotypes. Dollar Street and Gapminder can help.
Gapminder is a Swedish foundation that describes itself as a fact tank, not a think tank. It uses data to tell stories. Stories that can help us better understand the world we all live in. By using data visualization tools and photos, Gapminder can help your students explore vast amounts of global statistics.
They’ve got handy downloads and teacher resources. Check those out. But then head over to their new interactive tool called Dollar Street.
Imagine the world as a street. All the houses are lined up by income, the poor living to the left and the rich to the right. Everybody else somewhere in between. Where on the street do you live? How is your life the same and different than your neighbors from other parts of the world who share the same income level? With different income levels?
Dollar Street highlights 240 homes from around the world in a easy to use, searchable, visual database that gives you the tools to take students around the world. If you’ve ever used the excellent books – Material World: A Global Family Portrait or Hungry Planet: What the World Eats you’ve got a mental image of what Dollar Street looks like.
Tons of photos. Information about families. The ability to see how others around the world live and survive.
You start with a broad view – all the families, all the countries: Read more
It’s February. Black History Month.
And I gotta be honest. I’m always a bit conflicted about the idea. The concept of a month specifically set aside for the study of Black History started back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month of February as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to remember together the struggles of African Americans to obtain the basic civil rights afforded to others, the challenges African Americans have faced for centuries, and the contributions of African Americans to who we are. But . . . the real hope was that the story of essential people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.
Recent movies such as Selma and Marshall and books such as Hidden Figures do a great job of creating a sense of a specific time period, of overt racism and violence, the need for supporting the right to vote, the courage of everyday individuals, and of the thought process behind events. The message of Black History Month remains – that the quest for equality and dignity in the United States was difficult and dangerous. And that the extraordinary work of ordinary folks such as John Lewis, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Amelia Boynton Robinson still isn’t finished.
But I’m still a bit conflicted.
Jose Vilson, teacher and activist, Read more
Back when my youngest was in fourth grade, I asked her to preview the very cool You Are the Historian website. It’s an interactive tool that asks elementary kids to use historical thinking skills while addressing the site’s guiding question: What really happened at the first Thanksgiving?
The site led her through primary sources, to video clips of colonial historians, and to the exploration of different artifacts. After she was finished, I asked her what she learned by “playing” the game:
The past is what really happened. History is what we say happened.
I couldn’t have been prouder. That’s exactly what I hoped to hear. (And good job, BTW, You Are the Historian creators.)
History is our interpretation of evidence.
We have a problem. We look at evidence. And we figure it out. But I’m not always sure that we’re teaching our kids how to do that very well. Part of the problem is bias. We don’t always make it clear enough that everything we have our kids use to solve the problems we give them is biased.
And just as there is no such thing as unbiased primary evidence, there is no such thing as unbiased secondary evidence. All news, photos, media sites, books – it’s all biased.
Need a few examples? Read more
January 27th marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. In 2005, the United Nations established International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War.
And while you may not be teaching a class that specifically focuses on the events of 1941-1945 and earlier persecution under the Nazi government, it does provide a chance to connect those events to similar genocides both past and present. And to other acts of discrimination and persecution happening around the world and in the United States.
By remembering the Holocaust, we can honor survivors and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.
There are many resources available. You might start with these: Read more