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Posts tagged ‘humanities’

The humanities are “useless.” (Unless you want a job. Or to change the world.).

As my two kids weaved their way through middle and high school, they experienced the first waves of STEM, Career Pathways, and the focus by school districts on specific technical skills. As students who were also interested in art, music, and journalism, it became difficult for them to find room in their schedules for these “non-essential” courses.

The reasoning? We need to get kids ready for high paying jobs after graduation. Get them ready for engineering majors in college. For careers in computer science or coding cause that’s where the money is.

Not that STEAM and tech and career tracks and coding for 8th graders is necessarily a bad thing. I truly believe that we need to provide all types of learning experiences and opportunities for our students. But it seemed at times as if all of those things were added at the expense of things like art, history, and music.

It’s gotten better as Read more

Art. So much more than something hanging on a wall.

Both my kids have always had a strong sense of art, of being able to create visually appealing pieces. (The Rowdie effort to the left by the oldest is not one of his best efforts, though it does accurately convey the family pet’s personality.) We constantly had crayons, painting supplies, easels, and all sorts of other artsy things in use around the house.

I wasn’t much help. My art skills have been described as “creative” and “abstract.”

Both kids continue to share their love for the medium and to help me think about art and artists. And today, a quick conversation with a high school US history teacher meandered down a path that focused on ways to integrate art into our instruction.

So it got me thinking a bit.

We often forget how powerful the arts can be in connecting our kids with social studies content and big ideas. Art, in all of its forms, is a great way to create emotion, generate connections, and build relationships. Whether viewing landscapes, portraits, or historical events through the eyes of contemporary artists, students can get a sense of time, of place, of interpretation that would be impossible using other forms of primary sources.

One of the quickest ways to incorporate the arts is to focus on the visual – paintings, drawings, and images. But I often notice it missing from the toolkits of many social studies teachers. And I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe we’re just not aware of the resources available or the kinds of questions to ask. If we’ve never thought too much about using artwork as an instructional tools, it can be hard finding a jumping off point.

So what can it look like when we intentionally integrate visual art into our classrooms? Try some of these ideas and resources: Read more

12 tips and tricks for using music in the social studies classroom

I am not musically inclined. I like music. I listen to music. Love the Spotify. But I don’t play an instrument and karaoke only in large groups. Maybe I just never had the right training but it’s hard to imagine any music teacher being very successful in coaxing out my inner Bob Dylan.

Which is why it’s not easy for me to think about using music as an important piece of social studies instruction. You might be the same way – integrating music and song lyrics into your classroom just isn’t the first or second thing that comes to mind when you’re designing lessons and units.

But it should be.

I was reminded last night how powerful music can be and how we can use it to help kids connect with our content during the weekly #sschat. Focused on the intersection of music and social studies, the chat provided a wide variety of useful ideas and resources.

Led by Chris Hitchcock and the folks at Get Sounds Around, a bunch of us sat around and shared tips and tools. You can get the full transcript over at sschat but here’s a few of the tidbits I gathered: Read more

Got art? Using visuals as part of your social studies instruction

I admit it. I’m a little biased. Both my kids have a strong sense of art, of being able to create visually appealing pieces. (The Rowdie effort to the left by Jake is not one of his best efforts, though it does accurately convey the family pet’s personality.) We constantly had crayons, painting supplies, easels, and all sorts of other artsy things in use around the house. So I’ve always been keen to the idea of integrating visual arts and images into social studies instruction.

And I think we often forget how powerful the arts can be in connecting our kids with social studies content and big ideas. Art, in all of its forms, is a great way to create emotion, generate connections, and build relationships. When we fail to intentionally integrate the visual arts, music, sculpture, dance, and theater, we do our kids a disservice.

One of the quickest ways to incorporate the arts is to focus on the visual – paintings, drawings, and images. But what can that look like? Read more

Why should you hire a history student? (Spoiler alert. Cause they’re awesome)

For a long time, many in education have viewed the K-12 system as the minor leagues for college. We take pride in how many of our HS grads are accepted into colleges, especially the elite ones. We’ve created curriculum and tests and policy and tracks that encourage the jump from high school to university.

Nothing really wrong with that. I’m a big fan of the liberal arts myself. But not everyone is interested in two or four or eight more years of school. Some are ready to jump into other things. And that’s okay too. But the system can sometimes marginalize those sorts of students.

And so, over the last few years, there’s been a shift. A recent push is happening in a lot of places, Kansas included, to find ways for K-12 education to do a better job of prepping kids for careers as well as college. STEM and STEAM and Pathways and Career Clusters now are helping K-12 schools to become little training grounds for businesses.

Nothing really wrong with that. I’m a big fan of creating employable people myself. But not everyone wants to jump right into the job market. But at times, it can seem as if the push to create employable people marginalizes the humanities – history, art, literature.

I think we can and should do both. And I think most schools are doing a pretty good job of finding the balance. But I do hear more questions about the value of a humanities / history degree than I used to.

What can you do with that degree? How can studying history help you get a job?

And a few months ago, I ran across an old post at a site called Shaunanagins. The name alone was enough to suck me in. But the post title and content kept me around. 30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student does a great job of addressing the questions of those who are unsure where the humanities fits into a 21st century curriculum

We know, because we see it every day, how important the transferable skills are that we teach in our classrooms. But Shauna Vert clearly articulates the reasons why businesses need to seek out the history majors.

Need a taste? Read more

Tip of the Week – EDSITEment equals awesomeness!

Perhaps it was a lack of caffeine. Maybe some sort of weird bias against great teaching resources. It was certainly a serious oversight.

How have I not talked specifically about EDSITEment before today?

I mean . . . I’ve sorta mentioned it while talking about ThinkFinity and it was kinda connected to a discussion about Mission US. But I’ve never really talked specifically about EDSITEment on History Tech.

A recent post about the very cool Picturing America project and site generated a comment from Joe Phelan, part of the EDSITEment team, who shared some specific informaton about the PA project.

(The specific info was that the PA project still has some free poster sets to give away. The 40 posters are full color, with lesson plans, and are incredibly useful for teaching US history. Send your school name, shipping address and phone number to Judy Regelman at jregelman@neh.gov to get yours.)

Joe described EDSITEment as a

K-12 digital outreach program from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We are especially strong in US History, government, American and British literature as well as art and culture. Our online lesson plans are built around guided reading of  primary sources which are carefully contextualized and  stress critical thinking and other 21st century skills.

And his comment got me thinking. I share EDSITEment with a lot of people face-to-face but have I ever highlighted the site online? A quick search reveals . . . nothing. So here we go.

The site’s hundreds of lesson plans are organized around the four major categories of:

You can also search for lesson plans by grade level and subcategory such as Civil War and Reconstruction. You can also search for and browse through a very large database of humanities-related web sites by using EDSITEment’s handy sorting tool.

There is a separate page that allows you to specifically browse through a wide range of interactives lessons. The site provides access to current and past issues of the NEH bi-monthly journal, Humanities. If you or your students are interested in doing local community service, the After School section provides a series of activities that students can do at home and in their neighborhood.

There’s also a great reference section:

The site includes social media links such as Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds. So if you teach, well . . . just about anything, EDSITEment has something for you.

Have fun!

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