Category Archives: Social Studies

Native American Heritage Month

In last week’s anti-racist post, I spoke about how the company Analytic Orange is revolutionizing history curriculum by ensuring multiple perspectives are included in its materials. One example is the materials for 4th grade classes in Utah that they have created to teach about the Navajo culture. During the month of November, 2020, which has been declared Native American Heritage Month in the United States, I think that it is important to acknowledge the work that we need to do to correct the over-generalizations and stereotypes regarding Native Americans that have been the norm in classrooms throughout the years, especially when we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving.

One of my good friends shared an excellent resource from PBS to use in the classroom to teach about the Wampanoag tribe, which interacted with the Pilgrims. It was the first link I added to my Thanksgiving Wakelet for this year because I felt it was so important to include the “real story” about the first Thanksgiving. We also need to educate our children about different tribes and their unique cultures, instead of perpetuating the beliefs that all Native Americans lived in teepees, wore headdresses, and were, supposedly the other 364 days of the year, warmongers.

Wyoming PBS has produced materials for that state’s students to learn more about the two tribes that reside there – the Shoshone and the Arapaho – in a unit called, “Why Teach Native American History?” The short video on the page emphasizes the points that I made above regarding stereotypes.

Another place to start is, “Rethinking Native Stories in Classrooms,” by Debbie Reese. She recommends books to read that offer more realistic representations of Native Americans. She also advises that students should learn about specific tribes, and that we should talk about Native Americans in the present tense so we don’t imply that there are no longer Native Americans in our country.

For more resources, as well as a calendar of specific events that will be celebrated throughout the month, I encourage you to visit the Native American Heritage Month website. I would also like to invite you to look at this post written by my friend, Joelle Trayers, with excellent picture book suggestions for culturally sensitive Native American units. And, if you are looking for my past anti-racist posts, you can find them all linked on this Wakelet.

image of Wampanoag winter home replica shared by Brian Herzog on Flickr

Make Your Own Time Capsule

If you have not discovered the Smithsonian Learning Lab yet, you are in for a great surprised. Here are some of the previous posts that I’ve written about the quality educational programming SLL provides. One of their latest projects is to offer a monthly challenge. For this month, it is to “Make Your Own Time Capsule.” I think that most of us would agree that this is definitely a year for the history books, and that describing it to future generations would be a lot more helpful with artifacts. Whether you endeavor to do this at home or at school, the Learning Lab gives you the resources to do it.

You can begin by using the Learning Lab Collection that explains what a time capsule is, and the history of them. Then you can look at a carefully curated sample collection from the National Postal Museum for the year of 1918 – when airmail began (the same year the Armistice was signed, ending World War I, which was the impetus behind our celebration of Veterans Day in the United States). Finally, you can watch a video that shows a unique way to make your very own time capsule. (You may need to be logged in to view these resources. Registration is free.)

With historical and scientific connections, you could easily bring in math and language arts to make this an interdisciplinary unit that would be engaging and relevant for your students – perhaps during those challenging weeks between the end of November and the winter holidays?

If you do something that you would like to share with the world during the challenge period (November 10 – December 8, 2020) , be sure to tag it #SmithsonianEdu.

© Copyright Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Veterans Day 2020

My heart is full of gratitude for the men and women who have served, currently serve, and intend to serve in our military. During a year that has caused many of us to re-examine our definition of freedom and to consider the sacrifices we are willing to make for the benefit of our country, November 11, 2020 should be a day of celebration of our veterans and a reminder of the hardships they endure.

If you are still looking for resources to share with your class this Veteran’s Day, I have a Wakelet list that I have curated here. It includes a BrainPop video for Veterans Day as well as some wonderful poetry ideas and three ways to give thanks through Operation Gratitude, along with many other ideas.

Also, although it’s not specifically a Veterans Day lesson, here is a link to an activity I did with my students a couple of years ago on “War,” which integrates one of the StoryCorps Veterans Day videos.

Thank you to all veterans and your families for your service to our country.

Image by Anita S. from Pixabay

Analytic Orange

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a former colleague of mine, Shari Markowitz, who is the Chief Product Officer at Analytic Orange. The company is on a mission to provide learning materials that are research-based and high interest to students with strong support for teachers. Their social studies curriculum, correlated to the standards, includes: lesson plans, digital presentations, and differentiation suggestions. Materials integrate beautiful graphics and multiple opportunities for formative and summative assessment.

Analytic Orange offers 4 main reasons that their curriculum stands out, but I am going to focus on two of them in this article: Civic Engagement and Diverse Perspectives.

Events over the last few years have demonstrated that young people in the United States have much to learn about civic engagement. With nationwide standardized testing emphasis primarily focused on math and reading, social studies is often swept aside. For many, this has resulted in apathy and/or susceptibility to misinformation. We sorely need a course correction in every sense of that phrase.

The determination of Analytic Orange to include Diverse Perspectives in its materials is the reason that I chose to write about the company today. This is my weekly anti-racist post, and I think that it is vital for us to make sure our students understand our history through multiple points of view. As I looked through some of the sample curriculum for 4th graders in Utah, I saw lessons about the Navajo tribe and its rich traditions, as well as the impact of the European explorers and Americans upon their culture. We cannot ignore this part of our history, and the curriculum relates the facts of the mistreatment of this tribe by the American government. As you can see in the screen shot below from the Analytic Orange website, the company is dedicated to ensuring the complete story is included in its curriculum.

image from Analytic Orange

Analytic Orange has partnered with the Joan Trumpauer Mullholland Foundation, a foundation formed to end racism through education. They will be offering their program curriculum on Canvas, Google Classroom, and SRG Technologies (BlenderLearn) as soon as January, 2021. In an e-mail to me, Shari Markowitz said, “Throughout our publication, we present women and people of color in various situations that are not typically presented in mainstream textbooks. Children will see themselves in our publication. “

I believe that the more students are able to see themselves in the history of our country, the more empowered they will feel to become involved in preserving and furthering its assets while working to rectify its liabilities.

A large part of eradicating racism is education. We cannot expect future generations to avoid the missteps of the past if they are ignorant of them.

For links to my previous anti-racist posts, click here.

Do Kids Voices Matter?

Kid Correspondent is a new series of videos brought to you by Soul Pancake. Hosted by the delightful Riah and numerous other amazing children, the show has the energy and charm of the Kid President videos (also produced by Soul Pancake) and John Krasinski’s Some Good News. Episode 3 of Kid Correspondent asks, “Do Kids Voices Matter?” In a brief interview with Mandy Moore, viewers will learn why we have elections, while other segments of the show look at a child’s perspective for getting his or her voice heard. Although the episode is nine and a half minutes long, young children will likely stay engaged throughout as they watch peers present, act silly, and inspire. Like Kid President, Riah gives a short Pep Talk during the video, and ends it with a Dance Party.

Let young people know that we value what they have to say by showing them this episode of Kid Correspondent. Voting is important, but there are many other ways they can make their voices count before they reach the age of 18.

The amazing Kid Correspondent, Riah

Vote By Design

If you are looking for non-partisan resources about voting to use for secondary, college students, and adults, you should definitely take a look at the Vote by Design site created by a team of educators at the Stanford d.school. The site provides free materials that include lesson plans and interactive workbooks for students, as well as a Nearpod experience. By framing the conversation around the responsibilities of the president, this 45-90 minute activity guides the participants to consider, “What are the leadership qualities best suited to this job?” instead of, “Which candidate do you like more?”

You can find downloads for the free materials here, including videos to help guide you in facilitating the session. Additional resources, including a link to one of my favorites, iCivics, are on this page. For more information about the origins of Vote by Design, and the logistics of using it with your students, you can visit their FAQ page.

Statistics show that nearly half of the eligible voters did not vote in our last presidential election in 2016. Due to their age, most high school students won’t be able to vote this year. However, we have the opportunity to encourage them to take advantage of this hard won American right in their future.

Photo by Noah Pederson on Unsplash