Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Preserving Our Memories

Preserving Our Memories

God Made a Farmer

Over the weekend I was looking through my Zite Feed and ran across a link to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History who is collecting stories as part of their Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive. The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress always does such an excellent job of collecting American Stories as a part of their digital archive. As I read through some of the examples, I thought about how important our memories are to us.  I definitely related to the Walking Beans Story by Sharon Covert. I thought this was a really neat example of "Thinking Like a Historian."

During the Super Bowl Dodge Ram ran their Super Bowl Ad "God Made a Farmer." That ad struck a chord with family and friends from rural America.  (I've embedded the video below). Quickly after the ad aired, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of people commenting how it brought back memories of growing up on the farm. It definitely reminded people of their memories of their childhood growing up in Rural America.

Memories are a powerful thing and an important aspect of Historical Thinking. Preserving those memories are an important skill of a Historian. This is a skill I need to do a better job of using with my students. For those teachers who teach in more rural areas, the Smithsonian's Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive might be a great place for our students to start preserving those memories of our parents and grandparents as rural America continues to shrink. These are stories that need to be recorded and retold as part of our American Experience.

Remembering the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement

Since I am currently teaching in a more urban area where student's don't know the difference between a combine or a tractor, I don't know if farming stories will connect with my students. However, in May we will be studying the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement and I think there might be some stories in there my students can find among their family or neighbors. I am constantly reminded during this unit from my students how old I am.

I think it would be interesting to break my student's up into teams, and have them collect as many memories from as many people of a Global, National, or Local event that happened during the Cold War or Civil Rights Movement. We could set up Google Forms for each event as a location for individuals to record their memories. Similar to how the Smithsonian National Museum of American History: Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive has set up for individuals to type their stories.

The lyrics to the song "We Didn't Start the Fire" might also serve as a topic list for students to  pull from.

Students could take these stories and create some type of virtual museum using a Wiki, Blog, or Google Doc where we could share these stories to the community.

Some Possible Resources:

  1. Veterans, Oral History, and the Library of Congress from teachinghistory.org:  Resources for teachers to use with students for interviewing veterans. (I've used this in the past with students who interviewed family members who served in World War II.)
  2. Making Sense of Oral History by Linda Shopes: Good suggestions for students and teachers in conducting interviews.  
  3. Nebraska Studies: Website  full of photos, documents, letters, and other resources that can be broken down by time periods and how it impacted Nebraskans. 
  4. Mary Fran's Google Doc's Tutorial: Tutorial and how to use Google Docs

If you have done any similar activities with your students I would love to hear about your successes and suggestions in the comments section below.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Personal Touch....Soldiers and World War I

A Personal Story....Soldiers and World War I. 

If you boil it down, really history is just a series of stories that get passed down from generation to generation.  These stories help us know where we've been as a society. Connecting students to a "family" history can help bring the stories home for them and make history meaningful.

My students are currently studying World War I in class. As part of our discussion we always look at the impact the war had on the soldiers. Probably like many classes, we talk about the causes of the war, American Neutrality, and the US eventual involvement into the conflict. It is easy to talk about the battles, generals, and strategy but what is often lacking in the textbook is how the war impacted the average soldier.

To help students make a connection to the "Average Soldier" I start out by introducing them to my Great Uncle Frank. Frank like many young men of his generation volunteered to fight in this "War to End All Wars" and served in France. I learned of his involvement everytime my family visited our small town cemetery to lay flowers on his gravesite each Memorial Day. Doing some of my own historical research through my Grandmother's photo box and newspaper scraps I have been able to piece together a glimpse of who he was as a part of my family history and America's impact in WWI.   Frank wasn't famous, nor is he mentioned in any textbooks or documentaries. But he does help me connect to history, and that is important for students to see as well.

There are lots of great resources out there to help students make connections to real people who served, fought, and sometimes died fighting in war. If can be very powerful for students to connect to an ancestor or somebody who may have lived in their community. Even if they can not, with the internet there are lots of other ways to connect to real people in the time period we are studying.

I often times have students do a little research and write a letter from the perspective of a solider fighting in World War I. In the letter I try and have students share what their experiences might have been. After students have done some initial research, I have students sit on the floor between desks with heavy shelling/machine gun sounds blaring from my speakers where they can free write for 5 minutes to try and capture the sensation of living in some very horrible conditions.

Below are some of my favorite resources I like to have students use.

I never got to meet my Great Uncle Frank, but I hope I honor his memory by using him to get my students to examine how World War I impacted the average soldier.

Do you have any great resources, tools to help students connect to World War I? If you do I would love to hear about in the comments section below.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Inspiration...I'm Starting a Blog


I have been debating for a long time whether or not I should start a blog. As a full time husband, father, coach, and teacher there is little time in my already busy schedule for extra activities. For the past two years that I have been on Twitter, I have enjoyed sharing with my peers from around the world.   One drawback to Twitter is that I felt I always had more to say than what 140 characters limits you too. So I am starting a Blog. My Twitter PLN has inspired me. I read and follow so many of you that I want to give back to the educational community. I feel I have so much more to offer the world by sharing my experiences as a teacher both good and bad. So Raiders of the Lost History Class was born. 
Why Raiders? It goes back to Inspiration. While brainstorming for my Blog's name I was reminded what inspired me into loving the subject that I teach....History. As a kid growing up in the 1980's I loved watching the Indiana Jones movies. I was hooked by the action packed adventures of Dr. Jones. I was enthralled by his exotic travels. Whether it was seeking the Lost Ark in Egypt, finding "Fortune and Glory" in India, or seeking the Holy Grail across Europe and the Middle East being able to visit these places was something a farm kid in Nebraska could only dream of doing.  

I may have not been able to become a world traveler like Indy, but I do try and take my students to new exciting places. Using technology like Google Earth and incorporating stories I try and take my students to new places everyday wherever our topic leads.

So like Indiana Jones, I hope that in this Blog I can share my sense of adventure and curiosity I try to live by everyday. A place where I can share lessons, activities, technology I use to help inspire my students. I hope that I can inspire someone else to take a risk and try something new with their students. I hope that others continue to inspire me to keep trying new things and exploring new adventures with my students.  For anybody who ends up of reading my Blog and following me on Twitter, I hope you are ready to take this adventure with me. As Short Round would say "Hold on Lady, we going for a ride."