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Posts tagged ‘smithsonian’

Smithsonian X 3D and using artifacts in your classroom

A few weeks ago, the folks over at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning posted a very cool article about the equally cool Smithsonian X3D site. The Smithsonian has over 137 million objects in its collection and is able to display 1% of that to the public. The X3D project is designed to find a way to digitize in 2D and 3D at least part of the remaining 99%.

The cool part? You can begin using the site right now to bring artifacts directly into your classroom.

We’ve always known the power of primary sources and artifacts to help our students make sense of the past. Things become much more real to kids when they can touch and hold stuff. And while the Smithsonian X3D tool doesn’t actually let them hold artifacts, it’s as real as you can get without traveling to Washington D.C.

The SIx3D viewer offers students the ability to explore some of the Smithsonian’s most treasured objects with a level of control that has never been possible until now. We hope this revolutionary level of access to the Smithsonian collections will spark your students’ curiosity and that the exploration of these objects will enable them to build lifelong observation and critical thinking skills.

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Two of my favorite things: Gettysburg and maps

I missed it.

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg? I missed it. I suppose it would have been too crowded anyway. But I do have the latest Gettysburg book by Allen Guelzo and am working my way through the Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen movie version of the battle.

And now thanks to Patrick’s suggestion, I’ve got some absolutely awesome maps. Two of my favorite things – Civil War battles and maps.

Some quick context. There has been a lot of discussion over the years concerning the different decisions made by leaders on both sides during the battle. Particularly the decisions made by Confederate general Lee on both the second and third day. Did Lee’s orders to attack the Union left flank on the second day and the frontal attack on the Union center on the third day make sense?

We know how the battle turns out. Confederate defeat. And often, because Lee is seen by many Confederate supporters to be infallible, Lee’s subordinates – especially Longstreet – get most of the blame for that. But the question remains. Why did Lee order attacks that with hindsight seem so wrong?

The Smithsonian might have the answer. Read more

Smithsonian Quests – Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges

The 1948 movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre worded it a bit differently but I’m sticking with Mel Brooks and the classic Blazing Saddles:

“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!

It’s a great line.

But in 2013, it would be wrong. In 2013, badges are a big deal. And used appropriately, badges can help us do our jobs better. Read more

History Geek Week Day Three: Teaching with American Art and Portraits

I walked in late and I love this session already. Three people from several Smithsonian art museums are highlighting some of the ways teachers can use artwork and portraits as teaching tools. And the stuff they’re sharing is pretty sweet. The content is focused on the Civil War era but you could do this kind of thing with just about any period.

You can find most of it online at their Civil War with Art exhibit. Be sure to also check out  their Teachers Guide page with stuff on a variety of topics including Reconstruction, Native Americans, and Manifest Destiny.

A couple of sample activities:

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National Youth Summit on the Dust Bowl

After very little rain and close to fifty 100 degree days this summer, I’m not sure I’m that interested in learning more about heat and dust.

But if the National Museum of American History says I should learn more, I suppose I should just go along.

Actually, the NHAM doesn’t have to drag me along on this one. For the last few years, the Museum has been hosting something they call a National Youth Summit. Last summer, it was the Freedom Rides. Next February, Abolition.

This fall? The Dust Bowl.

In the 1930s drought and intensive farming in the Great Plains brought about dust storms, crop failure, and human misery in one of the worst ecological disasters in America’s history.  The 2012 National Youth Summit will unpack this story and connect it with current issues of drought, agricultural sustainability, and national and global food security.

The Summit will feature segments from award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’s forthcoming film The Dust Bowl. Huffington Post science editor Cara Santa Maria will moderate a discussion with: Ken Burns, United States Department of Agriculture ecologist Debra Peters, and Glenn Roberts, farmer and owner of Anson Mills.

Panelists will take questions from students participating in the Summit, and offer their own perspectives on what history can teach us about our relationship with the environment.

Scheduled for October 17th, the Museum is hosting the Summit live and is making it available to you. All you’ve got to do is register. The cool thing is that you and your students have access to resources and experts without making that long commute to D.C.

You can find handy NHAM pre-session materials here. Access the PBS Dust Bowl website here.

Need a few more Dust Bowl resources?

NCHE Day Two – Smithsonian art and reading history

Okay, a quick tip for everyone. Don’t go to the 11:15 pm showing of the Friday night 2.5 hour long The Hunger Games movie with your daughter before the 8:00 am start of NCHE day two.

I’m just saying.

But I’m awake and ready to go. Really. Starbucks is a wonderful drug.

The 8:00 session looks good – if for no other reason that it’s by the Smithsonian Art Museum people and a middle school teacher from Wichita.

The Art Museum/Portrait Gallery has over 40,000 pieces and is a phenomenal resource. I was able to spend some time there last fall and every much enjoyed their Civil War exhibit.

Victoria Lichtendorf and Adrienne L. Gayoso from the museum started the session with a hook activity using a postcard template. Use the template to create a card using

Victoria shared the idea of using something called Visual Thinking Strategy. (Use Google to find lots of resources on the VTS idea.)

The strategy is a inquiry-based pedagogy that encourages open ended discussion, scaffolding, and  group collaboration while enhancing thinking skills, verbal communication and visual literacy. Works great for visual things but also other sorts of primary sources.

The concept was designed for non-art sorts of people like . . . well, me. And probably you and most social studies teachers

Based on three basic questions:

  • What’s going on this image?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?

Paraphrase what students say and repeat back to them while introducing new vocabulary. Be careful to remain neutral. It’s basically a feedback system to help kids look for details, support their conclusions with evidence, and to continually look for new clues.

Use a laser pointer or “magic wand” (a piece of white card stock taped to a yardstick ) to point out specific pieces of the image but limit student use of this so that they strengthen their use of verbal skills.

Once students have worked through this activity, provide more contextual information concerning, time, artist, contemporary events, etc. Ask students to revisit the image and

They used George Catlin’s Egghead painting to demonstrate the idea.

Another idea is called Connect / Extend / Challenge. Dave teaches a middle school history class and showed how he used the idea with his kids.

Dave started with an image called States Names by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. He’s got some cool stuff, be sure to get his Prezi here.)

How are the ideas and information presented connected to what you already knew?

What new ideas did you get that extended or pushed your thinking in new directions?

What is still challenging or confusing for you to get your mind around? What questions, wonderings, or puzzles do you now have?

Dave also suggested that the Making Thinking Visible book is another great resource.


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