Category Archives: strategies

I Can’t Count That High: PBL in the Social Studies Classroom

statistics-of-population-research-paperOne of the new initiatives in my school district during the 18-19 school year has been to begin a Project Based Learning community.  This is a group of teachers who came in over the summer for two full days of training, and have continued to meet quarterly during the school year to learn about PBL together and support each other as they implement PBL in their own classrooms.

My mentor teacher, Kim Zielsdorf, teaches 7th Grade World Geography and Kansas History, and she jumped right into PBL from the beginning of the school year with a highly engaging, yet short and sweet project to introduce the students to the World Geography curriculum.  Kim presented this question to the students: How big is 7.7 billion? The students then worked with partners to find creative ways to represent the global population.  How long it would take Crayola to make 7.7 billion crayons, how far you would travel after taking 7.7 billion steps, each partnership came up with their own way to represent a number that is so high it can be hard to grasp.

Beginning the school year with a short PBL unit allowed the students a fun and engaging way to ease into the school year and get to know each other, while also giving Kim a chance to practice the fundamentals of PBL and learn more about her students’ interests through the decisions they made while completing the project.  Do you use PBL in your classroom?  What is your favorite PBL unit to teach?  Share in the comments below!

Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

miracleI recently ran into a guy named Michael following a session at a social studies conference. Michael teaches history in a large, urban high school with a ton of low SES and ELL kids. His situation seemed so desperate to me that I had to ask him what strategies he used to convey content and meaning, how he got kids to makes sense of historical information.

He began sharing some of ideas and I realized that his situation wasn’t desperate. The kids in his classes – the low SES kids, the ELL kids – are learning and they’re learning at high levels. And it’s because of Michael.

I’ve read the ton of research out there documenting the importance of quality teachers. But it was fun to actually sit down and talk with someone who knows the content, who understands what works, and spends time honing his craft. To talk with someone whose actions suggest that the research is right.

A few of his ideas? Continue reading Simple things, really. But with huge impact.

Get Out the Vote With Dole!

pastedImageThis week’s contributor is Julie Bergene: Julie Bergene is the public education coordinator at the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence. She leads K-12 and family education programs, including on-site, outreach, and online initiatives. Previously, she was an educator at natural history museums and holds a teaching license for secondary biology.

You can catch Julie at the Kansas Social Studies Conference next week: Get Out The Vote – Historically Speaking                                                                Monday. Monday October 29, 2018 1:00pm – 1:50pm
MU 250 B: Black and Gold Room ESU Memorial Union 2nd Floor


unnamedWant more access to great primary sources? Seeking to engage your students with voting and debates especially in this election season? Itching to try a new digital breakout game? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to attend the session “Get out the vote – historically speaking,” next Monday at 1 pm at the Kansas State Social Studies conference.

Hello, my name is Julie Bergene and I am the Public Education Coordinator at the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence. From the great primary sources of the Dole Archives, I will be simulating a document discovery workshop that you can do with your students or I can also come to your school for a free outreach program!

In my conference session, I will present a really interesting look at two constituent letters from Kansans in 1969 (before the 26th Amendment). They give viewpoints of two opposing sides of the right to vote at age 18. By the end of the exercise I hope the students appreciate how interesting primary sources are, understand the difficult decisions that our elected officials have to make on a daily basis, and display how important our public rights are in a democracy. Experience this for yourself in a hands-on demonstration on Monday afternoon. These interactive activities fulfill state standards and can be related to the C3 framework.

Also, I will be presenting a new digital breakout activity based on the Dole Archives. Similar to an escape room but all online, this 45-minute activity gives a great introduction to Senator Bob Dole and his career, while interacting with our online resources like digitized documents. This would be a great pre-assessment tool as you utilize the online Dole Archives primary sources or before your free outreach visit!

I would love to discuss with you how to utilize these free resources and more from the Dole Institute. I look forward to working with you and your students! See you at the conference!