Sunday, February 11, 2007

What Do You See?

I've done several NECC workshops on The Library of Congress and was "wowed" at the time as I looked deeper into what they have available for teachers and students. I want to share one of those "wow" activities with you. I was researching visual learners when I ran into this activity and I said to myself, "I can see where kids would really like this". The activity is called What Do You See?

"In this lesson students analyze a single photograph from the American Memory collection Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865. Using the skills developed, students then find and analyze other images. Conclusions reached will allow students develop links between the Civil War and American industrialization."

Students divide into teams and look at a section of a bigger picture, they then come up with answers to questions about the photograph. They return to to the larger group and discuss the "Big Picture". When, in the late 1990's, I first saw this photograph and the "technology" used to cut it up I thought, "this is so cool". It seems rinky dink by today's standard but utilizing the technique is a good way to enhance visual literacy. Check it out and see how you could use this technique in your classroom.

Image From Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865, Library of Congress

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

CSI: Cemetery Scene Investigation

Over the summer I read an article in Edutopia magazine called Six Feet Wonder. I have no idea why I was reading a 3 year old magazine unless it was on the stack of things to "read eventually"! The article told of a cemetery project that some students in California had done and linked to the curriculum the teachers had written. I thought it sounded fun so I mentioned it to my co-teacher.

When our district's foundation grant application came in the mail we decided to write a grant to do the CSI project. I can usually come up with good grant ideas and I've written grants before, so the "prize patrol" came to our classroom with a big check, flowers and balloons in November, we'd gotten the grant. With the grant monies we purchased 2 GPSs, 2 Palm TXs, 3 digital cameras and a digital video camera; we also included fieldtrip expenses. You can read about the project objectives on our website.

After looking at the original CSI project and webquest we decided how we were going to go about completing the project with the sixth graders in our gifted program. I spent dozens of hours setting up a skeleton website so there would be some scaffolding for our students' work. We expanded our project (from the original) to include extra research providing a thorough background for all of us. The students were able to use a wiki to "store" their research before it went to the website. Students started working on the project about three weeks ago. You can see the day to day schedule and student research done so far on our website CSI: Cemetery Scene Investigation .

Before we take our first of three fieldtrips we are going to have a Garmin representative come in and do a workshop on GPSs, high school students are coming in to teach digital photography and photo manipulation, a videographer is coming to talk to the kids about making and editing videos. We are also going to do lessons on weathering and of course take a look at patents for preventing premature burials (!), ghost stories, and vampires!! We are visiting a local Indian Mission cemetery and a family farm cemetery as an introduction to the field study. We will then spent two full days in two other cemeteries recording data, taking pictures, making videos, and of course doing whatever we are suppose to be doing with the GPSs. The last month of school will put all the data and media on the website and probably have a big Open House/Party to share our findings!! Check the website often to see how we are doing.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Voyage of the St. Louis

When my students were working on the background research for the Guardians of Freedom project we used this site, The Voyage of the St. Louis from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Quoting the site, Students of the Holocaust frequently ask, "Why didn’t Jewish people flee Germany when the Nazis took power?" Framed in the context of several broader issues, the story of the St. Louis offers a historical case study through which to address this question. The broader contextual issues include: German anti-Jewish policy in 1938 and 1939; the international response to the growing refugee crisis; the plight of refugees in German-occupied western Europe; and United States immigration and refugee policy during the 1930s and 1940s.
Using documentary evidence, Museum researchers have reconstructed the individual stories of many St. Louis passengers. This information will help students understand the complex issues mentioned above, especially the difficulties that Jewish refugees faced when fleeing Nazi Germany and how United States government policies influenced the fates of refugees.

Students used the primary documents to discover the fate of several passengers on the St. Louis. There is something very powerful about scrolling the database of prisoners registered at Auschwitz, scanning for the name of a family member you are trying to "locate". This site certainly enhanced the students' understanding of the plight of Jews during the Holocaust.