Category Archives: resources

Yup, I’m smarter. Thanks Smithsonian!

A couple of months ago, I felt smart. I had just finished a full day with some of the best social studies teachers around. We had talked about hyperdocs, completed a BreakoutEdu, identified photos as either real or fake, learned about a variety of graphic organizers, and participated in an awesome video conference focused on the Smithsonian Learning Lab with Darren Milligan and Kate Harris.

I felt smart. I had learned some stuff. I had taught some stuff. My brain was feeling good.

I should have stopped while I was ahead.

But after learning more about the Learning Lab, I decided to dig in a bit and see what all might be available online from the Smithsonian. And that’s where I got into trouble. About an hour later, I dug my way out of the incredible amount of goodness that Smithsonian folks have made available for educators. I felt smarter but not smarter all at the same time.

Smarter because I learned about some sites and resources that were new to me. Not smarter because . . . seriously, how I have I not known about these things before?

Just so you know, there is a ton of materials, lesson plans, and resources that the Smithsonian has put online. Seriously . . . a ton. Darren told us that the Smithsonian isn’t really sure how much stuff they have – he rounded it up to around 160 million objects. And that’s just the stuff in their collections, not the lesson plans and online exhibitions.

So just to share some of what I learned, here a few places that you need to pencil into your schedule to visit: Continue reading Yup, I’m smarter. Thanks Smithsonian!

Supporting New Colleagues

Whew! Kansas teachers have just about the first month of school under our belts. Heck, Homecoming is this weekend here in El Dorado. You may finally have the feeling that your feet are on solid ground, having made it through all the new faces, rosters, seating charts, data sorting, lesson planning, meet the teacher nights, etc. Of course, now we’re into our first big assignments to be graded, parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner and if you’re also coaching your away games mean at least one night a week is taken over by bus rides, encouragement and fast food. Now try to remember what it was like figuring it all out for the first time. Wow.

 

School Teacher Children Classroom Playmobil

We know that schools in Kansas haven’t exactly flourished in the past few years and that has really effected teachers. The Wichita NBC affiliate KSN ran a story that Kansas is down 1500 teachers for this school year. Is anyone surprised that our young people aren’t flocking to the profession? So I’m asking that if there are any new teachers in your building, please check in with them, even if they’re not a fellow social studies instructor (we’ll forgive them this once). Ask them if they need anything – help them navigate the teacher’s lounge, or share the trick about fixing a jam in the copier. Let them know there’s a lifeguard on duty in case they start to feel like they’re drowning.

We need to encourage and support our new colleagues so we don’t lose them; lock them in before they figure out there are actually jobs that end at 5:00 and have weekends off. In addition to personal outreach, there are a lot of good resources out there for new teachers to tap: Edutopia has a Toolkit for New Teachers, the National Education Association has a good selection of articles for new teachers on many of the issues that don’t necessarily get covered in university programs. Parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner and ASCD has a good set of guidelines to get them started.

There are also a wealth of networks new teachers can join that are on-going. You might have caught my post back in March on #sschat. They’ve seen the need and created the new hashtag #NTsschat just for New Teachers (NTs). The National Council for the Social Studies also has their Twitter account @NCSSNetwork and Facebook page and the Technology Community has the handle @TechNCSS.

In fact, @TechNCSS will be hosting a Twitter Chat of their own tomorrow (Tuesday, September 19) just for the problems faced by new teachers. Please encourage your new teachers to join us (once again, even if they’re not social studies, maybe learning about Twitter Chats will help them to find their way to one in their curriculum). You can feel free to join us if you want to help answer their questions or you’ve been interested in checking one out. This is one that will have a lot of basics if you want to lurk and pick up some new resources.

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Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

Guest Post: This month we have a guest post from Anne Wilson, Map Program Coordinator for the Flint Hills Map and Education Program.


As teachers, we often hear students lament:  “What does this have to do with me?”  We know if our kids believe an idea actually affects them, it all of a sudden really matters.  However, actually relating learning to students’ own lives and local environment takes time and background knowledge we don’t always have.

Now a grass-roots team of teachers in the Flint Hills region has developed a new “place-based education” program – designed to connect learning to students’ own heritage, culture, landscapes, ecology, economy, and experiences as a foundation for the study of core subjects.

How important is place?  Bio-regionalist author Wendell Berry writes, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” Many of our students think they’re from nowhere.  They are connected to everywhere but where they are.  This program gives them the gift of pride, understanding and commitment to their place.

The bonus is: Continue reading Increasing student engagement through place-based education: The Flint Hills Maps & Education program

Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

na art museumThe following is a guest post written by Bonnie Thomas.  Bonnie is the Manager, Education Programs and Resources at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO.

“School subjects are like individual rectangles, the teacher explained. And this long, curved line represents the arts and humanities, linking concepts and modes of thinking across disciplines.”

nelson atkins painting

painting creditsThis teacher, speaking in front of a vibrant geometric painting by the artist Robert Mangold, was one of 15 participants in a partnership project dedicated to exploring how art museums can support humanities education in public schools. Her comments emerged during a reflection activity in which teachers chose an artwork to represent their experience in the partnership project. Many other participants made similar comments, pointing out newly recognized connections between classroom subjects and visual art.

These teachers had first gathered several months previously at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, an encyclopedic art museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The Nelson-Atkins, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was seeking teachers’ input on how its strong collection of American art could be leveraged to strengthen student learning in American history and related social studies topics.

Continue reading Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

Use Crop It tools to help elementary kids think historically

One of the easiest but most effective strategies for having younger kids work with primary sources is called Crop It. In some ways, it’s a lot like my Evidence Analysis Window Frame but I really like the flexibility embedded in the Crop It idea. The idea is pretty simple: students use L-shaped paper “cropping” tools to explore a visual primary source.

One of the problems that we often face is finding ways to help students see details – and to make sense of those details – when viewing a primary source. Photos, paintings, and graphics can contain a ton of specifics that get missed if students don’t take the time to look for them.

Crop It slows the process down so that students scan a source at a deep level and think about what they’re looking at. It gives them a way to find evidence, see multiple viewpoints, and gain a more detailed understanding of a primary source.

This strategy works especially well with elementary and middle school students to help them develop and support historical thinking. And the cool thing is that you can use it with all sorts of visual sources. Continue reading Use Crop It tools to help elementary kids think historically