Happy Birthday Jayhawkers!

(Cross-posted from History Tech.)

greetings kansasShe was once called the Great American Desert, a title mistakenly given her by temporary passers-through. She’s always been home to huge herds of North American bison, vast expanses of seven foot tall Big Bluestem prairie grass, forested hills, hawks, bobcats, coyotes, the Arkansas and Big Blue rivers, Cottonwood trees, a ton of deer and antelope a-playing, and not just a few amazing people.

Indians. Cowboys. Explorers and Pony Express riders. Politicians. Artists. Aviators, scientists and writers. Reformers. Populists. Pizza makers. Farmers. Lots and lots of farmers.

Kansas turns 154 today. And it’s her people that make her who she is.

There was David Buffam, a free-stater who in 1856 was shot outside of Lawrence by a pro-slavery supporter. His last words?

I am willing to die for the cause of freedom in Kansas.

The 1st Colored Volunteer Regiment was formed in Kansas and became the first regiment of black men to fight for the Union and the first to serve alongside whites. James Lane, Kansas senator, formed the Tr-Colored Regiment in 1862. It consisted of white, black and American Indian soldiers.

Henry McCarty, then 11 years old, is mentioned in the Wichita Eagle newspaper as one of several “street urchins” who witness gunfights. Henry later becomes better known as Billy the Kid.lucy hobbs taylor

Lucy Hobbs Taylor becomes the world’s first licensed woman dentist in 1866. Francesia Porter joins the Kansas Medical society in 1872, becoming the first woman doctor in the country to be admitted to a state medical association.

A group of about 30 former slaves form the small town ofNicodemus in northwest Kansas following the Civil War. It remains the oldest and only all black town west of the Mississippi.

Mary Elizabeth Lease, a lawyer and farmer’s wife, spoke across the state and country in support of Populist views during the late 1800s. She urged farmers to

raise less corn and raise more hell.

Medicine Lodge farmer Jerry Simpson is so poor, says the Wichita Eagle newspaper, that he doesn’t have socks. During the 1890 congressional race, Jerry derided his wealthy opponent by claiming that “princes wear silk stockings. I don’t wear any.” “Sockless” Simpson went on to win the election and became a respected Populist voice in Washington.

ks mennosMennonites from Russia bring new ideas of pacifism and non-violence to Kansas in the 1870s. They also bring Russian Turkey Red wheat – helping to create the nation’s “Bread Basket.”

The Dalton Gang’s crime spree comes to end in 1892. While attempting to rob two banks at once in Coffeyville, the Daltons are stopped by townspeople in a 12 minute shootout.

James Naismith invents the game of basketball and becomes coach at the University of Kansas. The Jayhawks go on to win national championships in 1952, 1988, and 2008.

During one of the numerous county seat wars during the 1800s, Bat Masterson and 20 deputies are dispatched from Dodge City to monitor the county seat election in Garfield County. Violence followed the election with citizens from Ravanna and Eminence attacking one another during attempted robberies of the county records.

carrie nationCarrie Nation starts her bar-smashing campaign in her home town of Medicine Lodge.

The state’s first influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the early 1900s provide the necessary spark to jumpstart railroads, mines, meat packers, and agriculture.

Clyde Cessna, along with Beech, Stearman, Boeing and others, becomes one of many who help make Wichita the “Air Capital of the World.” Cessna crashed so often early on that he stated:

I’m going to fly this thing, then I’m going to set it on fire and never have another thing to do with aeroplanes!

In 1917, Iris Calderhead, daughter of a Kansas congressman, is arrested in front of the White House during a women’s suffrage rally. Nine months later, Kansan Nellie Cline becomes the first woman lawyer to address the U.S. Supreme Court. Nellie went on to become one of the first women in Kansas to serve in the state House of Representatives.army amazons

Seven thousand women, in support of striking southeast Kansas coal miners, marched in 1921 to protest unfair labor practices. Called the “Army of Amazons” by the New York Times, the women stared down machine guns and rifles held by 1000 deputized milita. Their protest led to eight hour work days, progressive child labor laws, and equal rights for women and minorities.

William Allen White of Emporia, author of the famous “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” 1896 editorial, responded to the growth of the Ku Klax Klan by running for governor in 1924. His vocal disapproval of the Klan helped lead to its legal banishment from the state.

John White was a kindergarten student in Andover in 1934 when his teacher saw dust clouds looming and sent the class home.

The dust hit us so hard we kept running into trees. Me and a buddy hid out in a culvert. My dad found us and I remember him carrying us home. My friend’s lungs were so full of dust that he passed away.

Dwight Eisenhower grows up in Abilene, invades Europe, and becomes president.

In 1950, the citizens of Liberal challenge Olney, England to an international race of pancake-flipping women to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. The race is still held every year with Liberal leading the series 36-25.

The Dockum Drug Store sit-in in downtown Wichta was one of the first organized lunch-counter sit-ins for the purpose of integrating segregated establishments in the United States. Initiated by local high school students in July 1958, the sit-in was so successful that three weeks later the owner relented:

Serve ’em — I’m losing too much money.

National chain Pizza Hut starts in 1957 when Frank and Dan Carney borrow $600 from their mother and open their first store in Wichita.gordon-parks

Gordon Parks grows up in southeast Kansas, picks up a camera in the 1930s, and begins working for Life magazine. He later published the acclaimed novel, The Learning Tree.

Allen Ginsburg pens Wichita Vortex Sutra, describing his time in Kansas.

Truman Capote writes In Cold Blood, an account of a murdered family in western Kansas. My father, who grew up just miles from the incident, remembers that

people started locking their doors after that.

Lynnette Woodward, four time All-American at the University of Kansas, plays on two US Olympic basketball teams, and later becomes the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters.

All interesting people.

But it’s somehow more than just people. It’s also a strange and wonderful combination of cultures and biology and politics and place.

William Heat Least Moon wrote once

So what is the truth of Kansas? It is the heartland of America, indeed, but not simply in the way popularly understood; it also beats at our center because, like the whole nation, it moves in turbulence, in fitfulness, and, somehow between times, in beauty.

After 154 years, Kansas is still an amazing place. Happy birthday!

Continue reading Happy Birthday Jayhawkers!

Maps as digital storytelling tools

map of world6

I love maps.

Seriously. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love maps.

I spent countless hours during my growing up summers in the cool basement, browsing through boxes of old National Geographic magazines – searching for and studying their wonderful maps. And even today, the monthly arrival of the National Geo mag means nothing gets done until I flip through all the pages checking for those very cool inserted maps. We have more than a few old geography textbooks in my house. Atlases. Gazetteers. Boxes of state maps collected during trips. Folded city maps.

When I left one particular school district, I even took the pull-down maps with me because I knew they were being replaced over the summer and would get thrown out. (That’s just between you and me, of course.)

So today when I ran across the book titled A Map of the World: The World According to Illustrators and Storytellers, my to-do list got pushed to the back burner. It’s a very cool book that captures a wide variety of map styles and tells a powerful story about how people view the world: Continue reading Maps as digital storytelling tools

Most influential people of all time (US version)

A recent Time magazine article lists what it calls the 20 most influential Americans of all time. It’s an interesting list. Four presidents, two social activists, two women, assorted scientists and inventors, a couple of explorers, and an athlete and musician thrown in for good measure. Many famous, a few not so much.

And like the 100 most important American documents, open for debate. Why Steve Jobs and not that Microsoft guy? Why only two women? A boxer? Really? Continue reading Most influential people of all time (US version)

Informed Citizenship: Analyzing Bias in Current Events

The following is a guest post from Basehor-Linwood Middle School teacher Joe Zlatnik.  Joe teaches 8th grade social studies at BLMS.

news1The concept of citizenship can be found throughout various social studies curricula. KSDE social studies standards are designed to “prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens…” and the National Council for the Social Studies C3 curriculum seeks to offer opportunities “for students to develop as thoughtful, engaged citizens.”

However, the steps to becoming a citizen are not clearly outlined. It is as if you become a citizen as a byproduct of going through these prescribed curriculums. I argue that one will not simply become an engaged citizen by completing a curriculum, but that students also need to have a way to decipher the ever-changing world we live in.

Being an engaged citizen today is, perhaps, more difficult now than it has ever been. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite has given way to Fox News and MSNBC. We now live in a world with a 24-hour news cycle, multiple cable news channels, and a bias that is inherent in almost all the information that we receive.

As reporting has been replaced by editorializing, we find ourselves struggling to formulate our own opinions due to being overwhelmed by talking heads from across the political spectrum telling us what we should think. Developing a sense of citizenship amongst students, while daunting, is now more important than ever.

Continue reading Informed Citizenship: Analyzing Bias in Current Events

Bill of Rights Day 2015


Okay . . . admit it. How many of you didn’t know that today is Bill of Rights Day?

Come on, it’s okay.

Yes, I see those hands.

I first ran across Bill of Rights Day a few years ago. I consider myself a person who keeps up with this sort of thing but I had no idea. Back in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 to be Bill of Rights Day, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. So it’s been around a while.

And we probably need to make a bigger deal out of this than we are. Civic literacy and understanding of the nuance embedded in the first 10 Amendments seems a bit low right about now.

FDR observed in 1941 that Continue reading Bill of Rights Day 2015