Steve McDonnell a 6th Grade US History 1 at J. Frank Hillyard Middle School in Broadway, Virginia shares some photos of his students' latest creation.
"My students built a southern tobacco plantation (circa 1776) this semester. It included slaves quarters with a vegetable garden and overseer's house, a manor house and tobacco field, a stable, warehouse, workshops, a river barge, and a dock. All the items on the plantation were made by the students with glue, tape, toothpicks, colored paper, and clay except for the pine trees and wooden barrels." - Steve McDonnell
Throughout my years as a teacher (and now as a student teacher supervisor), I am always on the prowl for amazing new websites. Some are for my own edification and others can almost provide an entire lesson plan. Here are some of my current URL loves:
This Smithsonian powerhouse provides a curated and meaningful approach to teaching with objects -- whether through a gold nugget or a short handled hoe. The accompanying lesson plans are incredible and interactive.
Students (and teachers) are intrigued by this site, which shows the swath of nuclear devastation based on geography and gradations of nuclear bombs. It is a spectacular tool when teaching about the Cold War and definitely an attention grabber.
Think teaching about wars can be dusty and date-ridden? This website includes videos, lesson plans, and first person accounts of all wars fought by the United States. Interactive collections and a riveting “history mystery” add to the allure.
This remains one of the best resources for finding primary sources on virtually any topic in history. Many are full length, so you may need to edit and curate depending on the age and ability of your students.
This award winning website out of George Mason University is a fantastic resource for social history, especially for finding topical and fascinating information on women and children. Activities such as “Be the Historian” encourage historic inquiry and critical thinking.
Written by Laura Delmore Lay
Central VA Area Representative
2017 Teacher of the Year Al Ruliffson from J. Frank Hillyard Middle School used his grant money to purchase Virtual Reality Goggles for his 7th Grade History Class, here students take a virtual field trip to Little Bighorn National Battlefield and the New York City Tenement Museum.
Editorial written by Tracy Dussia, VCSS Tidewater Area Representative
“American Journalism is independent fact-based verified reporting that serves the public.” From the Virginian Pilot Op Ed by Tom Ferrick, Jr.
Why is it Important?
We, the people, must rely on the journalists and media to cover the stories that are relevant to our role as citizen. Citizens must be able to discover the truth, much as a lawyer must examine the evidence in a case in order to determine what the arguments are, and how to persuade others that their views of the evidence and facts are correct. Thus, without being able to discover the “truth” about an incident, citizens are left to pick and choose among alternate descriptions of an incident in order to draw conclusions about the relevance of that event. The citizen must ultimately be able to cast a vote for the candidate who best aligns with their version of the events and their relevance to the political process.
The relevance on the political process.
Because we live in a time in which information travels at lightning speed throughout the network and into your personal space, it is not necessarily examined for accuracy before it is released to the audience. Intentional or not, information can be framed in order to skew the meaning and the authenticity of an event. This is what the current discussion about “fake news” is all about.
For news organizations, whose primary task is to make money and gain ratings for the owners and publishers, the sensational, the opinion, and the manufactured information can take on the bias of the network or publishing house. Thus, since the public’s need to know is imbedded with both liberal and/or conservative bias, it is up to each consumer of news to determine what the truth of the matter is.
The problem lies in the vetting process. How much time does an ordinary citizen, who has personal, family, and business concerns to handle daily, spend on deciphering all of the information they chose to read or watch on any given day? The probability that they have little time to process and analyze the 24/7 news is a reality. In essence, by choosing the media source – such as Fox News or CNN- or a myriad of other media choices the informed citizen has already selected the media slant that they are most comfortable with, based on their own political ideology. This political thought may have been shaped while still at home with parents, or in high school with peers, or with the college they paid for and attended, or with the job that they work as a career. Regardless of how and when the ideas took root, one’s ideological preference is shown as the citizens vote on election day. Voters select the candidate that best represents their own perspective – whether liberal or conservative, and the process is then validated.
In this new world order, however, it is much more apparent that he who controls the media controls the message. If the candidate can capture the attention of the media, and use that to promote their own message and ideology, then the process can be hijacked – albeit unwillingly – to the popular whims of the journalists who are just trying to make headlines and get the scoop.
Today, more than ever, it is important for everyone to take the time to weigh the information they are being fed. Just like many citizens take time to eat a more healthy diet, news consumers must be able to determine which news is valid and which news is “junk food” – manufactured to be sweet to the ears and popular with the peers. Democracy is dependent upon a safe and reliable stream of information that has been fact-checked, verified, and that ultimately serves the public. It cannot be released based upon the whim of those who wish to maintain their own political popularity and feather their own nests. In my view, the public must insist on information that has been verified. It is important in light of the current state of the nation as well as on our nation’s future. This nation was founded on the principles of democracy – that the people rule, and that the elected officials serve them. Although all opinions are permitted in a nation that guards its first amendment rights as sacrosanct, fake news – news that has twisted the reality to match the goal of the publisher or the network- must be identified, and if necessary, retracted. It’s not too much to ask – especially since the future of the nation is at risk.
Meet Elizabeth Baxter, a third grade teacher at Centre Ridge Elementary School in Fairfax County. Centre Ridge Elementary School is a proud Title I School that serves a diverse and transient population of students and families in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
Students in Elizabeth’s class learn through Project Based Learning. Last year, students created “Welcome to Centreville” brochures for new families. Elizabeth worked collaborated with her team to develop rubrics to support student expectations.
The brochures helped new families access resources in the Centerville area. The brochures were placed in the Parent Resource Center at Centre Ridge Elementary School.
Spotlight written by Tanya Siwik, Assistant Principal, Cameron Elementary School
Written by Laura Delmore Lay, Central Virginia Representative
Now that cooler weather is here and our classrooms are in full swing, taking part in some indoor enrichment is much more appealing. Whether you plan on visiting one of these dynamic spaces on a field trip or simply for enhancing your own knowledge, please pass the word on to fellow colleagues and students. Central Virginia has so much to offer history lovers, and the excitement of the newest Smithsonian Institution inspired me to include some additional museums focusing on the African-American experience. Please note that this list is in no way exhaustive; please write to us (or post on our Facebook page) about educational resources near you.
As the campaign cycle continues, make the most of presidential election teachable moments by using the following resources and engaging your students in:
evaluating, analyzing, synthesizing, and drawing conclusions
Teaching about the presidential debates?
Then take a look at the following attached Social Education resources which we think you will find useful:
(Not so) Unprecedented: Media Analysis of the 2016 Presidential Race and Its Historical Precedents
Memorandum about the First Nixon-Kennedy Debate
Media Construction of Presidential Campaigns
Political Polling in Past and Present
Looking for perspectives that your students can more easily relate to?
Then visit Chase the Race at: http://www.chasetherace2016.com/#main-about where you will find student led interviews and other activities to get your students ready to participate.
Interested in having your students participate in a mock election?
Find out how at National Student/Parent Mock Election: http://nationalmockelection.org/. National student voting begins on October 24 and culminates on November 3,
Exploring more ways to teach about the election?
Then visit the Teaching for Democracy Alliance website where you will find recommended resources to help you define your student engagement strategy: http://www.teachingfordemocracy.org/resources.html
Try these resources that were recently published in Social Education.
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