Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Institute

Summer Institute

History lovers often love learning about wars and monarchs, dates, etc. However we all know that some if not many of our students find it difficult to stay engaged with information like that. Imagine teaching heavy hitting, important information and concepts using these vehicles: rap and popular song, architecture, Coca-Cola, sports, soap, bananas, sewing machines, Disney, The World’s Fair programs, and others! Now these are things our students know something about or can relate to more easily.  The premise of the Summer Institute ‘U.S. and The World: Expressions of Power Past and Present’ is to look at relationships between the U.S. and other countries from political, social, and commercial perspectives.  The products and companies used to deliver the information serve as a hook to help students remember and apply in a real way the impact of the American 'Empire'.  The participants in this institute are abuzz with excitement at how interesting and usable the materials are. The field trip to The Massachusetts Historical Society and the Gardner Museum were usable and enjoyable! Art, artifacts and documents give our students hands on means of learning. 
As I looked through the frameworks, I believe the following have been very well covered by the Institute:
USII.6 Analyze the causes and course of America’s growing role in world affairs from the Civil War to World War I.
USG.4.2 Analyze reasons for conflict among nation states, such as competition for resources and territory, differences in system of government, and religious or ethnic conflicts.
USG.4.4 Describe the tools used to carry out United States foreign policy.
Examples: Diplomacy, economic aid, military aid, humanitarian aid, treaties, sanctions and military intervention.
USG.4.5 Examine the different forces that influence U.S. foreign policy, including business and labor organizations, interest groups, public opinion, and ethnic and religious organizations.
USG.4.8 Use a variety of sources, including newspapers, magazines, and the internet to identify significant world political, demographic, and environmental developments. Analyze ways that these developments may affect United States foreign policy in specific regions of the world.
USG.4.9 Evaluate, take, and defend a position about whether or not the United States should promote the spread of democracy throughout the world, or in certain parts of the world, or not at all.
As I wrote early in the blog – these are meaty concepts – giving the students a lot to think about. Now we have many tools to uses to ensure such thinking!  Many of the strategies were open-ended- getting the students to comment and think based on analysis of a document before the ‘academic’ presentation- talk about prior knowledge! These activities make the students realize they do already have some knowledge and abilities to digest these deep issues.
Example:  Who would ever think that a soap ad could get students thinking about American (white man’s) expansion?  The many symbols and images in this ad were shown by Ron Woolley of Hingham High School to get students engaged in a meaningful conversation.

How about this image to get students talking about the US in Latin America as Lina Yamashita had us do?

Caroline Berz led us in to an insightful discussion of the Spanish American War and American sentiment by using images like the following from the 1904 World’s Fair.

Powerful and creative teaching and learning is the result of such high quality professional development.  Kudos to Kara, Ann Marie and colleagues for bringing in  such high quality presentations and lessons!  I believe I can speak for all when I say thank-you.

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