Thursday, November 30, 2006

Two Carnivals Involving History....I'm In Heaven

The midway over at the 44th History Carnival looks very full. I can't wait to dive in. It can be found here hosted by David Tiley at Barista.

Are you into ancient and medieval history? Check out Carnivalesque hosted by Even in a Little Thing here.

I've been doing some research into ancient African history and find it very interesting. The average person is aware of particular histories such as American, British, European, World.......but African history can be a mystery to some. I believe part of the problem stems from the fact that much of the history was oral and once imperialism reared its ugly head much of African history was lost or rewritten.

There's a whole other blog post in this ramblin' any rate, go visit these carnivals.

You can never have enough history!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Week 3...Things I Remember

Thirteen Things I Remember.....Do you remember them as well?

1. The arches at McDonalds used to be part of the building style. They went through the building.
2. Scooby Doo without Scrappy Doo and guest stars such as Sonny and Cher
3. Record players and pieces of furnture that were referred to as “the Hi-Fi”
4. Televisions that were encased in huge cabinets.
5. Women wearing aprons
6. Little girls wearing crinolines…slips with layer upon layer of tulle that scratched your “hiney” when you sat down not to mention the panties with 50 layers of ruffles, the “big girl” tights that never stayed up, frilly, frilly white ankle socks AND shiny black patent maryjanes
7. Krystal (Whitecastle) burgers costing 17 cents a piece and the d├ęcor was shiny silver ala 1950’s diner…..the lettering on their cups and bags was in black with a splash of purple (it’s strange what you can remember…)
8. the Sears store on Gordon Road in SW Atlanta near the Dunkin Doughnuts had a large Winnie-the-Pooh display in the children’s department. It included a large tree. I always wanted to climb up the tree and visit with “Pooh” and Christopher Robin
9. when lunches at school were ONE choice only. You ate what you were given or starved….Most ate and amazingly no rights were violated at all
10. a time before middle schools. I went to school through seventh grade in the same building before switching over to the high school.
11. I remember Blue Laws…..everything including grocery stores closed on Sunday.
12. when teachers were RESPECTED and had AUTHORITY
13. when the once-a-year test was given over three consecutive days instead of interrupting instructional time for 14

Wordless Wednesday: Week 1

Update: An explantion to this week's Wordless Wednesday can be found here.

Carnival of Education: Week 95

The textbook edition of the Carnival of Education is up at A History Teacher. Dan has done a wonderful job hosting. Go on over and catch up with friends and meet a few new ones.

Next week’s carnival will be here at History Is Elementary! Submissions can be sent to historyiselementary [at] yahoo [dot] com. Make sure your entry is in before midnight on Tuesday, December 5th.

Now all I have to do is come up with a creative way to present everything.

No, no, I’m not nervous……:)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's Good to Be the

Sometimes all you need is something very simple to move content along and to motivate students to think critically as any historian would do.

Prior to our Thanksgiving vacation my students were examining the Pilgrim colony at Plymouth and the later Puritan colony at Boston. Before that we managed to get Jamestown settled and coerced gold hungry men to work so they could eat real food ala John Smith.

It was at the point after we had taken a good hard look at initial French colonization that we turned to the Dutch. We discussed the purchase of Manhattan Island, the diversity of New Amsterdam, and the intolerance of people like Peter Stuyvesant.

It was at this point that I drew a blank outline of present-day United States on the board and turned to the class, “We’ve been talking about early colonization in North America. What are some of the colonies we’ve mentioned?”

Hands go up all over the class. I call on one young man. He answers, “Plymouth?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?” I counter.

He smiles and quickly states, “I’m telling you.”

“Great, then come on up and make a dot where Plymouth would be.”

The next dot to go up is for Jamestown.

Hands have continued to flap and wave during this exchange so while our first dot is going up on the map I call on another student.

A young lady wearing furry, mukluk type boots responds, “Roanoke!” in a loud, clear voice.

Another student agrees with her by saying, “Yeah, the Lost Colony.”

One of my arm flappers interjects more forcibly than he needs to, “But, it wasn’t a successful colony. It shouldn’t go up on the map.”

Other children argue it should be on the map. One student even says it should be on the map because it really is a place today. At any rate mukluk girl finally gets the marker and she makes her dot.

I refocus our energies by asking, “What about the Dutch colonies?”

We quickly get a dot up for New Amsterdam. I continue questioning students by asking, “Why would European monarchies allow colonization? What was in it for them?”

Various students summarize that colonies formed because the monarches granted permission through charters, and money was invested in companies like the Virginia Company in return for stock. Students advise that monarchs wanted colonies because it would give them power and prestige. My nine year olds don’t use the word prestige. I believe their wording was, “It would make them look good, it would make them look important, and others would like them.”

Finally I ask students to look at the map we had fashioned together on the board. I ask them to look at the map through the eyes of a king…..the king of England. “Look at your map. Look closely. Analyze it. What do you notice?”

We begin the answer dance where I’m peppered with various responses that are a mix of wild guesses and thoughtful attempts. I take refuge for a minute by sitting on my back table and swing my legs back and forth. I keep telling students to think, think, and think some more. I remind them to think like a king.

Finally, a revelation. One young lady observes, “The English colonies are divided.”

Someone agrees, “Yeah, the Dutch colony seperates the English colonies.”

“So. So what?” I respond, “Why is that a big deal?” We embark on a short discussion why it’s not a good idea to have territory split by a potential enemy.

I call on one particular young man who doesn’t appear to be involved with the rest of the class. Basically his head is below his desk and is actually inside his bookbag.

I approach his desk and rap on it. He sits up rather quickly. “Ummm, Uninvolved Student, what would you do if you were the King of England?”

Uninvolved sits up straight and for a moment looks like a deer caught in headlights. He looks around the room for a minutes and then he states, “Well…….if I was the king I would get rid of what’s in my way. I’d get rid of the Dutch.” He springs back to his original position....head in bookbag.

I stand there dumbfounded.

I guess some students can listen even when their heads are in a bookbag.

UPDATE: Make sure you check out the comments. One reader, Linda, asked a very good question concerning St. Augustine and Santa Fe----both established settlements during the same time period. I've posted my response in the comments section.

Dragging Things Out

I guess we are the only family in the United States actually smoking a turkey today. You’d think we’re tired of turkey after Thanksgiving, but Hubby Dear received a dandy bird from a client and well…..we have to eat, you know. We usually drag holidays out as long as we can.

Sometimes dragging something out is great and other times well….sometimes things can go on too long. Cinderella over at World of Royalty linked to two newspaper stories regarding the American Mohegan tribe and a request to meet with monarch of Britan dating back to the 1730s. Read the whole story story here and here.

This is most interesting. Everytime I visit Cinderella I find something wonderful.

A Mixed Post: Presidential Tag Clouds, Ease History, and Bad History

This is SO WAY COOL! I’m so excited about it in a geeky kind of way. Dave over at Patahistory has linked to something called presidential speech tag clouds. You can link directly to his post here and read about it. You can link the tag clouds directly by clicking here. Once you are at the tag cloud site notice the button directly under George Bush’s name. Click on it and you will find it can move back to the left. As it travels left notice the tag clouds….they zoom back in time through all of the presidents.

This has many possibilities for research and classroom use. Have students compare and contrast tag clouds. When is terrorism first mentioned? Which president mentions war? Is there a president who doesn’t discuss the economy? Another possible activity could be to have students compare the tag clouds to actual events during a particular president’s administration.

Feel free to comment and post any additional ideas you can think of.

Ease History is a great find. Just where have I been? The website states Ease History is a rich online environment that supports the teaching and learning of history. It contains video clips regarding historical events and core values. It also includes campaign ads from 1952 through 2004. Go and explore to see how you can use this in the classroom!

The Carnival of Bad History is up over at Philobiblon. Not sure what bad history is?

Now is great time to find out.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Damn Good Dog!

I just love UGA, the University of Georgia mascot. I love him even more when we beat Georgia Tech in the annual rivalry game.

In case you aren't aware UGA is tussling with the mascot of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He won!

Damn fine game!

Friday, November 24, 2006

November Remembrance, Part One

Is it possible to love someone through another’s memory? To love and admire someone you never met, someone you will never be able to meet, someone who at the moment of their passing caused an incredible upheaval of grief and gouged an enormous chasm of longing for things that can never be, someone who a large number of people still speak of with reverence, awe, and thankfulness?

I believe it is possible.

I know it is possible.

I know it because I participate in this kind of love and admiration everyday for two vastly different Americans who left this Earth almost a year to the day from one another. My admiration for these two inviduals stems from my mother who shared her memories of them with me during my formative years where they became entertwined and linked indelibly in the murkiness where actual memory and grafted memories blend.


I was six months old on Saturday, November 24, 1962. Naturally I have no real memories of this day. What I know comes from Sister Dear who was six at the time. We had just celebrated Thanksgiving the previous Thursday. More than likely my parents had driven my sister and I to their shared hometown to visit with my Dad’s folks and then my Mom’s. Little did anyone know it would be the last time my Mom saw her mother alive. Sister Dear recollects the phone ringing that Saturday afternoon and nothing ever being the same again. She tells me now that Mother began wailing and flung herself across her bed. Sister Dear remembers simply standing and staring at Mother as she became a grieving, heaving mass of pain. When she remembers that moment she sees a collage of images of mother mixed with the piney hardwood floor of our hallway, the old radio that had been mothers as a teen now used as a phone table in the hallway, and how time seemed to stand still. Sister Dear was watching Mother’s agony as she had been told her mother had been found dead of a heart attack at the age of 62.

It was sudden. It was cruel. It was not what anyone would have expected. In writing that my Mother has left behind she states Nanny was tall and slender with broad shoulders. She had beautiful skin and dark, thick, course hair. She was a great cook and seamstress----most of the clothes my mother wore were handmade by my grandmother. She was always a cheerful person---smiling, laughing, and always hid any problems she might have---plus she always wanted to do something to help people who were less fortunate than herself.

Sister Dear speaks of our “Nanny” by describing her simply as FUN. She remembers having great times with Nanny. In every picture I have ever seen of my grandmother she is wearing a June Cleaver type dress…..shirtwaist, short sleeves, and full skirt. Sister Dear tells that Nanny would place her in the hem of her skirt and swing her back and forth. That had to be fun. Sister Dear tells of waking on warm mornings and gazing up on the wall where a picture hung of a little boy and a little girl. They were about to cross a bridge and an angel was hovering at their shoulders. She has told me this picture actually scared her. We were told as children that the boy and girl were on their way to Heaven. I remember the framed print too…….it scared me as well. Sister Dear has told me she would lie in bed the longest time and try NOT to feel sorry for the kids, but it was hard. As an adult I now understand the significance of that print. My grandmother had bore tragedy upon tragedy as young woman. Her first husband had been shot to death in front of her, and she had lost three children….one to sickness, one got ahold of some medicine that had been left out, and a baby boy had been born dead. The print that scared my sister and I so probably gave comfort to our grandmother and might have been the reason it hung in the spare bedroom.

Once up Sister Dear would walk into the front room and find a big bowl of blueberries on the floor between the screen door and door jam. She’d sit on the gritty floor and munch away. It always seemed, Sister Dear says, that Nanny would just know she was up and awake. She’d turn from her chores in the garden and give a hearty good mornin’ wave, and Sister Dear's day of fun would begin by building a playhouse out of tongue and groove planks and a cardtable Nanny would provide for her. I’ve always been told Nanny loved working with plants and apparently she could get anything to grow anywhere. Sister Dear remembers Nanny always smelled deliciously of outside, sunshine, and fresh turned earth. Things could be done at Nanny’s house that could not be done at home. Nanny always allowed Sister Dear to make mud pies on the porch not with water, but with real honest to goodness buttermilk.

Sister Dear remembers Daddy holding her as they stood in front of the casket set up in the front room of my grandparent’s home, and she remembers the funeral which took place at the one room wooden church with the obligatory outhouse in the back plopped in the piney woods where three generations of my mother’s family scratched the dirt. The land for the church had at one time been part of the family farm, but my great grandfather had donated it to the church folk. Nanny was laid to rest in dirt that was home to her. Sister Dear remembers a long service, our distraught mother who we now know had been given something to keep her calm and quiet, and the long row of our grandfather’s half-sisters who were actually more in line with our mother’s age than our grandfather’s. Each dear aunt took her turn holding Sister Dear in her lap….first Dee, then Blanche, then Claudine, then Nelle, and Elizabeth and then back to Nelle, then Claudine, then Blanche, and then Dee where the whole process started over again.

Mother grieved. Years later Mother spoke of grieving hard. She often said the knowledge that she had to take care of Sister Dear and I got her through, but there were days she didn’t know if she could make it. Our grandfather grieved hard as well. Sister Dear remembers his home being fun. I remember it as dark and dusty shrine much like the Haversham bedroom in Great Expectations. Many things were left exactly like they were the day Nanny left us even down to her pin cushion which always hung on a nail in the hallway with the pins in it just like they were the last time Nanny used it. As I grew older it remained hanging on its nail fading in color with the dust eventually caking over it until it was practically rotten.

The remainder of this post can be found at American Presidents Blog here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday Thirteen 2, Thanksgiving Myths

Thirteen Things about THANKSGIVING MYTHS

1. The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving. There is much debate where the Pilgrims held a harvest celebration or a time of thanksgiving. They did not refer to their three day feast as Thanksgiving as we refer to it. This feast did not become a yearly event, and it was not until the 1800s that Americans began to think about a regular Thanksgiving celebration.

2. Since it was a harvest celebration God was left out. The Pilgrims were a very religious group. To think they didn’t pray or include God in their celebration would be denying who they were.

3. Pilgrims……Puritans, they were all the same. The Pilgrims were Seperatists who disagreed with the Church of England. They preferred to leave England and settled in Holland before sailing for “Northern Virginia”……..actually present-day Massachusetts. The Puritans came over later and began settling in the area of present-day Boston.

4. Pilgrims wore dark clothing and per many of the paintings and school pageants where the feast is portrayed Native Americans wore feather headresses. In probate records from the time period we find inhabitants of Plymouth owned cloaks of red and clothing of various hues. The large buckles we are so fond of using to recreate Pilgrim clothing did not come into use until the late 1600s. Wampanoags would not have worn headresses in the manner of Plains Indians. They also did not live in teepees.

5. The Pilgrims were the only group to have a time of thanksgiving. Records indicate many different European groups in North America had times of thanksgiving including the Spanish in present-day Texas and in St. Augustine during the 1500s. The settlers at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia also make a claim of having an earlier thanksgiving celebration. Ultimately various Native Americans of North America must have the distinction of a harvest celebration and/or time of thanksgiving as they had done so for thousands of years as part of their culture.

6. They ate turkey. While we are certain through various records of the time they ate deer we are not certain about turkey. Records indicate fowl was served, but historians continue to debate the turkey issue. It is certain that many of the dishes we consider traditional today were not served at the Pilgrim’s feast.

7. The Pilgrims lived in log cabins. Many of the images that have been created over the years show Pilgrims living in log type cabins. This is incorrect. For many months the Pilgrims continued to use The Mayflower as a home. Slowly, wooden, clapboard building were fashioned to house the Pilgrims and their possessions.

8. The Pilgrims prepared the food and invited the Wampanoags. Like any pot-luck everyone participated. The Pilgrims would have prepared some of the food and Massasoit, along with 90 of his braves brought several deer.

9. After three days of feasting there must have been tons of dishes to wash. My students are usually delighted to find out that the early Pilgrims would have had no plates and there wasn’t a single fork at Plymoth Plantation. They ate with their hands.

10. The term “Pilgrims” was not in use until the 1870s. William Bradford states “They knew they were Pilgrims.” in his Of Plimoth Plantation. He was there. He should know.

11. William Bradford issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1623. Jeremy D. Bangs gives a great debunking to this misconception here.

12. The Pilgrims were grave robbers. Written first-hand accounts of people who were there indicate they found graves, examined them, but left things intact. They did find buried corn and carried some of it away with them.

13. Celebrating Thanksgiving is a slap in the face to Native Americans and should not be done. True, after Massasoit died things began to get increasingly tense between the Wampanoags and all European settlers in the area including the Pilgrims. King Philip’s War is proof of that. Perhaps we could look at Thanksgiving as the time that once was…..the time when there was a promise of doing things in a more congenial manner. Thanksgiving should not be looked upon as a celebration of domination or a time of mourning……it serves as an important lesson that Europeans and Native Americans were not always at odds. They could cooperate and live together. There are lessons to be learned from the breakdown of relations.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What's All the Hubbub, Bub? All I Want Is Turkey, Family, and a Little Football

Tomorrow is Thursday and folks who participate in the Thursday Thirteen meme will be posting their list for the week. I posted my first list last week. I decided to join the meme because it looked interesting and I thought it might be a great way to attract people to this site who are not involved in education. I decided that I could incorporate history and educational issues into my list each week.

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving I thought a list of Thanksgiving myths or misconceptions would be appropriate. Wow, there is quite a debate going on out there, and a multitude of misinformation exisits even on the debunking sites.

The first thing I did was google “Thanksgiving myths”. After I had gone through the first couple of pages of hits my head was actually reeling. There is a large amount of information, misinformation, and spin…..not to mention a large amount of copycats.

One website attempts to take on all comers and actually attempts to use primary sources to support his thoughts. Imagine that! Jeremy Bangs, a former curator at Plymouth Plantation, has posted an excellent posting which wades through many of the myth webpages zipping around the Internet. You can see his three-page work here.

Mr. Bangs states:

Surveying more than two hundred websites that “correct” our assumptions about Thanksgiving, it’s possible to sort them into groups and themes, especially since Internet sites often parrot each other. Very few present anything like the myths that most claim to combat. Almost all the corrections are themselves incorrect or banal. With heavy self-importance and pathetic political posturing, they demonstrate quite unsurprisingly that what was once taught in grade school lacked scope, subtlety, and minority insight.

One could go on. Someone should go on. To respond to all the assorted internet nonsense about Thanksgiving it is necessary to go on and on.

He then refers you to the site I have linked to above.

History News Network has some great articles up under the heading “Thanksgiving” but they appear to be a repeat since many of the comments are dated 2002 and 2003. An item under “Breaking News” caught my eye.

In an Associated Press article titled Teachers Emphasize the Indians reprinted here there is a discussion regarding how many elementary teachers are abandoning the romanticized version of Thanksgiving and settling for the more realistic version. The article discusses a teacher who attempts to get students to realize Europeans came and took possession of lands without any thought that they might already belong to someone else.

“I think that is very sad,” said Janice Shaw Crouse, a former college dean and public high school teacher and now a spokewoman for Concerned Women for America, a conservative organization. In criticisim of the teacher detailed in the article Ms. Crouse states, “He is teaching his students to hate their country. That is a very distorted view of history, a distorted view of Thanksgiving.”

Personally, I think Ms. Crouse is wrong. There is a place in our classrooms for the realistic as well as the romanticized versions of history including Thanksgiving. My students realize that when Columbus landed in the Carribbean and claimed the land in the name of the Queen of Spain it wasn’t his to claim. Does the fact that my students understand Plymoth Plantation was once a Patuxet village and the Pilgrims simply took it over mean they will hate their country? I think not. I think the knowledge helps them to understand their country better.

That being said I firmly believe a great responsibility lies with the classroom teacher to help students bridge the gap between realism and romanticism. We should provide enough background to students so they see the context of the time period. I explain to students that we are constantly uncovering new information that can be documented about historical events. Many things I learned in school has since been updated. Many things they learn today will more than likely be updated as more investigation is made.

Rick Shenkman, editor at History News Network weighs in here with Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving.

Timothy Walch tries his hand with Thanksgiving Myths here. He states:

So what do most Americans believe happened on that first Thanksgiving Day? Most still cling to what they learned in elementary school. The Pilgrims sat down with Indians for a big meal of turkey, cornbread, cranberries and pumpkin pie. The Pilgrims dressed in black, and the Indians wore feathers and colorful beads. In fact, many Americans today still recall if they were "pilgrims" or "Indians" in their school pageants.

It's a charming story, but it's a myth. To be sure, it's a powerful one -- one that will be repeated many times this November. The fact that it's so pervasive is evidence that American myths have long lives.

So it's a good thing that Americans today are not tested on the history of that first Thanksgiving, because few of us would earn a passing grade. It seems that the historical evidence of Thanksgiving is not as compelling as the myths that cloud our memories. It's too bad that childhood images of Pilgrims and Indians aren't based on historical facts.

Here is the part of Walch’s essay that really hit home for me:

And yet there's a legacy about this holiday that threads its way from past to the present and defies both myth and historical evidence. That legacy is generosity. To be sure, Americans today may not be as religious as the Pilgrims, but most Americans do share their plenty with their family and friends on this special day. It's a holiday that brings all Americans, no matter their creed or disposition, together. And that's something worthy of our thanks.

Does it matter what they served, who served it, what they wore? I agree with Mr.Walch. We need to remember for one brief shining moment Native Americans and Europeans, though they may have been wary of one another, sat down and broke bread. They shared a meal, they interacted, they tried to understand each other. It would be a shame not to share this fact with students as well.

We can all argue, quote, and requote, until kingdom come but one thing is for sure. Just like in any historical investigation we need to look at the artifacts and the written sources. If you can’t verify it then it is simply conjecture. I’m going to post my list of 13 myths tomorrow. Anyone who wants to quibble is welcome to do so, but come armed with primary source documentation from the various writings of Willam Bradford or other involved people of the time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Squanto: A Coincidental Life, Part 2

In part one of this post seen here I commented that I believe certain people and events are placed in our paths for very definite reasons. I like to tell students the true story behind Squanto because his story provides opportunities to look at myth versus fact as well as issues of character. For many years Squanto bounced back and forth between Europe and New England mostly through no choice of his own, however, his experience, tragic as it is, served a very real purpose. Each life lesson Squanto experienced was filed away in his toolbelt to be pulled out later when it was needed. I like to teach students they all have their own toolbelts as well.

When we last left Squanto he had finally arrived back on his home shores to discover every member of his village had been wiped out by a plague.

Historians love to banter over which type of plague raced through native villages during 1616-1619, but the important item for my use with students is Squanto was the last Patuxet left. His village had been abandoned, everything left idle as it was the day the last tribal member had succumbed to disease.

For a time Squanto resided with the Pokanokets at the invitation of Massasoit, the Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation.

In 1620, however, the Mayflower arrived with men, women, and children. Their original destination had been Virginia, but a storm blew them off course. John Smith had previously explored and mapped this region and is credited with naming the area Plymouth. When a landing party finally went ashore to scope things out they found an abandoned village and decided it would be an ideal location for settlement since it was already cleared.

It was several months before the Native American known as Samoset finally walked into Plymouth and greeted the Pilgrims. It was on his third visit to Plymouth on March 22, 1621 that he brought Squanto with him. Squanto was amazed that Plymouth was located exactly where his home village had been. The Patuxet village had now become home to the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims used these initial visits with Samoset and later with Squanto to improve trade relations and to formalize a peace treaty.

Squanto decides to stay with the Pilgrims. His knowledge of the surrounding lands proved to be the saving force of the colony. Squanto showed the Pilgrims where the most fish and eels could be found as well which berries and nuts were edible. He is credited with teaching the Pilgrims the ways of the Patuxet including their practice of planting beans and corn together. The bean plant shaded the corn roots and kept the ground moist while the corn plant provided a stake for the bean plant to cling to. Squanto remembered as a boy he was instructed to place three fish inside the hill of soil where the corn and beans were planted in order to provide fertilizer for the soil. It was beneficial for Massasoit to leave Squanto with the Pilgrims because he could let the Wampanoag Federation know what the Plymouth settlers were up to.

Squanto’s information paid off for the Pilgrims because they were able to celebrate their harvest….the same one we have turned into our traditional American Thanksgiving. Massasoit along with 90 braves brought five deer. The feasting lasted for three days.

The Pilgrims greatly appreciated Squanto’s knowledge. Squanto reprised his profession of translator and guide with the settlers as he helped them on many expeditions into the countryside “to discover and view [Massachusetts] bay and trade with ye natives…partly to see the country, partly to make peace with them, and partly to procure their trucke, or barter” per Miles Standish. At one point when Squanto was away visiting a local village he was attacked by Chief Corbitant of the Mattapoinset and Pocasset tribes. Records pertaining to Miles Standish indicate many Pilgrim men set out immediately upon finding out Squanto was in distress to “rescue him if he were alive or to punish Corbitant if he had been killed.”

Naturally both the Native Americans and the English trusted Squanto. Both sides left records indicating that later on Squanto used his knowledge of living in both worlds to his advantage to gain even more power and respect. He knew his fellow natives were scared of further plague. He invented a story to tell the natives that the English had buried the plague in barrels under their storehouse. Squanto attempted to control the natives by telling them he would release the plague unless they did what he told them to.

At another point Squanto was accused of attempting to spread rumors of a conspiracy involving Massasoit. Rumors were being spread that an attack by members of the Wampanoag Federation were eminent and Massasoit was involved. The rumors had one source….Squanto. He was hauled before the English court but was found innocent probably because he “had friends at court” per the diary of Miles Standish. Massasoit demanded custody of Squanto many times since Wampanoag custom demanded Squanto’s death, but the English refused knowing what the outcome would be. This clearly violated the treaty the English had with Massasoit, but Squanto’s capabilities were invaluable to the Pilgrims.

During a foraging trip on the south ocean side of Cape Code Squanto became ill in November, 1622. Many accounts differ regarding exactly what was wrong but they all agree that Squanto began to bleed from the nose and was soon dead.

In his history, Of Plimoth Plantation Bradford states, “their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He Squanto continued with them and was directed them how to set their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them till he died.”

Last week before our break I showed a great video to my all of my students, even my Languages Arts kiddies. It’s a common problem in elementary schools that there are not enough videos to go around and commonly you present something students have seen over and over every year. I never have a problem with this video. It sort of mystifies because it so good, and opens the door for many avenues of discussion. The video is based on the book Squanto and the First Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxes and consists of pictures from the book with Graham Green narrating it. The music, the wonderful artwork, and the haunting voice of Mr. Green really draws students into the story. You can get more information about the video including a video clip and audio clip here. The video tells the basics. It doesn’t go into many of the extra details I have shared with you, but students learn of the odyssey Squanto goes through in an attempt to get back home. They learn how by coincidence the Pilgrims ended up where they did and settle on land that Squanto grew up on.

After the video we talked about all the bad things Squanto had gone through….how scared he must have been, how angry, how confused at being someone who had lived in both worlds, and how that knowledge caused him to be used by both worlds, and at one point even corrupted him. Many of the kids I teach have had terrible things happen to them and within their families. They see things at nine years old I didn’t know about until I was in my twenties. My point in our “after video discussion” was bad things happen to everyone…….it’s how you allow those bad things to interact with your character that makes a difference.

Every moment of our lives, the fantastic times and the horrible times, are part of a dress rehersal to be recalled during the actual performance when we are needed to do our part. Squanto is an exemplary portrait of someone who understood his role in the dual society he lived in, and he is a valuable American hero to share with students of all ages.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Squanto: A Coincidental Life, Part 1

If you are a regular visitor here you already know that I am interested in how historical events connect and weave together to form our common human fabric. I am continually amazed at how events can have far reaching consequences….some across time…..some simply across town. What at first glance appears to be mere circumstance is instead a very carefully woven plan. I believe I know the author of that plan, but of course, that’s up to you to decide for yourself!

I love to share the story of Squanto with students because his life proves certain events and certain people are placed in our paths for reasons. We endure good times and hard times for various reasons. Sometimes we know the reasons immediately, sometimes the reasons are not made clear until later, and other times we are never aware of the far reaching effects of our actions and the people we interact with.

As we journey on through life our experiences teach us various things that we store in our toolbelt for life to be pulled out later as we need to recall the knowledge or the skill to help ourselves or others. This process can certainly be seen in Squanto’s life---that of a true American adventurer and hero.

Most elementary students are taught Squanto lived in the area where the Pilgrims first landed and he helped the Pilgrims learn how to meet their basic needs in their new homeland. While this true there is so much more to learn about this fascinating man. His life can be described as a tempest filled with grief, betrayal, as well as adventure. Squanto, of course, never wrote his own autobiography. The sources that contain information about him are few and far between and only give us snippets of his life, but a trail of events can be pieced together.

Squanto was a member of the Patuxet tribe and lived along the coast of New England near where Cape Cod is today. As Squanto became older contact with Europeans was becoming more and more common as various sea captains began to explore the coast of North America. Once the Jamestown colony was established in 1607 other entrepreneur types wanted to get in on the ground floor, and other possible sites for colonies were being investigated. English and French ships were known to fish the waters along the New England coast and they also traded with different Native American groups for furs.

It was not uncommon for some of the European sea captains to take Native Americans back to Europe with them with or without their consent. These natives were beneficial to the Europeans because they could be taught English and could inform the sea captains regarding important information regarding their homeland. The natives were a wealth of information regarding tribal and chief names, the lay of the land, which tribes were at peace and which tribes were at war. Other information could be obtained regarding crops that could be grown, the climate, rivers, and information regarding safe harbors.

According to the memoirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges who joined the Plymouth Company in 1606, Squanto was kidnapped and taken to England in 1605 by Captain George Weymouth who was on a fact finding mission regarding resources of the Canadian and New England coast. In his own letters Weymouth writes that he decided to take a couple of natives back with him but had a hard time controlling them “for they were strong and so naked as our best hold was by their long hair.” Gorges confirms Squanto remained in England for nine years actually living with him before returning to the New World during John Smith’s 1614 voyage where Squanto would act as a guide and interpreter.

If Squanto acted as guide on any expeditions prior to 1614 there are no records to indicate it. There is a record of Squanto being a passenger on John Smith’s ship as he left England to return to the New World in March, 1614 accompanied by a second ship captained by Thomas Hunt. The purpose for the expedition was to hunt for whales and to look for gold. When it became apparent that they were not adept at catching whales and no information regarding gold was obtained Smith decided to save the voyage by fishing and trading for furs. It is believed that it was during this trip that Squanto was close enough to return to his home for a time. Smith ended up returning to England with a full cargo of fish and fur.

Captain Hunt remained in the area and it is believed Squanto acted at times as his interpreter. Their relationship, however, apparently deteriorated as Gorges relates in his report A Brief Relation of the Discovery and Plantation of New England confirms that it was at this point Hunt kidnapped Squanto along with others who were lured on board thinking they could trade beaver. Hunt travelled to Malaga, Spain and attempted to sell the Native Americans into slavery for twenty pounds each.

When local friars found out the intended slaves were Native Americans they took possession of them and attempted to instruct them in the Christian faith. Squanto lived with the friars for a year or two before returning to London with an Englishman named Sir John Slaney of Cornhill who was a very wealthy merchant. Slaney was attached to the Newfoundland Company which managed a colony at Cupper’s Cove, Newfoundland. While he resided with Slaney, Squanto improved his English and returned to North America to act as an interpreter for Slaney and Captain John Mason, governor of the Newfoundland Colony in 1617.

While in Newfoundland Squanto was recognized by Captain Thomas Dermer who was employed by Gorges and the New England Company. Dermer had sailed with John Smith on various voyages. The captain ended up returning Squanto to Gorges back in England. Gorges promptly took advantage of the situation by organizing an expedition for Dermer aided by Squanto to explore the natural resources of New England and to set up trade agreements with the local natives.

Dermer and Gorges both realized by this time the Nauset and Patuxet tribes had had enough of their tribesmen being attacked and kidnapped by Europeans. The natives had taken to attacking any ship that approached their shores. Records indicate they attacked and burned a French ship that came to close to Nauset shores. Gorges knew that having Squanto along would be beneficial.

In 1619 Squanto and Dermer explored what would one day be Plymouth harbor. It was at this time Squanto discovered his entire tribe had perished at the hands of plague since he had last been home in 1614. Squanto was now the last Patuxet. His home village was being avoided by other Native Americans in the area for fear of catching the sickness that had decimated the tribes and there were stories that evil spirits haunted the place.

For a time Squanto continued to work with Dermer but eventually decided to remain with the Pokanokets who lived where Bristol, Rhode Island is today at the invitation of Massasoit, the Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Federation.

Part 2 of my examination of Squanto’s can be found here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

As Seen on My Computer Screen This Week...Items That Are Notable and Quotable

Today was my final day before a week long Thanksgiving break. While these days can be very difficult, today’s “day before break begins” was actually very enjoyable. Our fourth graders experienced Gobble Up Books Day, an activity very similar to DEAR (Drop Everything and Read). We read all day……….students read books based on their independent reading level and took Accelerated Reader tests for comprehension in every class. Over the last few weeks all of my students except for three have qualified for a reward party based on the number of points they have accumulated. The three that haven’t yet are well on their way, and I should have 100% by Christmas. One of my unmotivated boys has reached his goal. When I found out I sought him out in the lunchroom, placed my arm around his shoulder and said, “I’m so proud of your accomplishment. If you keep this up you will be a dynamite 5th grader.” He just grinned. After lunch he was the first one in the room saying, “C’mon, let’s get back to reading. I love to read!” It was a lovely day. I got to read all day as well. No discipline problems. No petty tattle-telling. I swear I entered a parallel universe today. I already have thanksgiving in my heart.

On the other hand Mrs. Cornelius spent quite a different day than I did. See her recap here.

Deemae, recently commented on my post Disclose Your Favorite Top Five . I did the polite thing and quickly responded to her comment before clicking on through to visit her site. She had a lovely post titled Thankful For a Good Story. Click on over and read it here. It takes random acts of kindness to a different kind of level.

Have you been by BibliOdyssey lately? The pictures simply amaze me. The technical drawings seen here resemble Leonardo da Vinci but are the work of Mariano di Iacopo, who began at the age of 50 to produce engineering manuscripts. Scroll down past several pictures to read the informative text.

J.L. Bell over at Boston, 1775 has been posting a series of articles about Boston vocabulary I find very interesting. Here is a post on the meaning of “little-house” along with sections of testimony from the trials following the Boston Massacre.

Mountainmanteacherguy, I mean Californiateacherguy, absolutely amazed me this week with his Thursday Thirteen. Go read it here.

Daily Perspective has an update regarding changes at The post states: once the changes go through you will be able to read news from each in history…right on the homepage…….each day will also feature current news linked to related newspaper articles from the past, helping to give you some historical perspective on today’s headlines. See the post here.

Well, what I have mentioned here isn’t all that is notable and quotable out and about, but these blogs I’ve mentioned are right up there at the top.
Give these folks a shout out and then go find more…a good start would be at my links list.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Disclose YOUR Favorite Education Blogs

  • Jay Mathews over at Class Struggle, the education columist for the Washington Post wants YOU to email him with the five education blogs you read regularly making them your top five. See Mr. Mathews’ post here. His email address is in the link under the title of the article. Simply roll over his name, click, and a comment box will show up.

    He also requests you email the same list to Walt Gardner, an educator and prolific “letter to the editor writer”. Mr. Garner’s email address is

    See KdeRosa’s take on the issue here.

    I think educators should email Mr. Mathews and Mr. Gardner. They need to know we are here, we have issues, we have great ideas, and the edublogosphere is not (contrary to someone’s belief) all simply rant, rant, rant.

    Go on now….make your list and email it right now. :)

Thirteen Places I Want to Travel To

Thirteen Places Elementaryhistoryteacher Wants to Travel to

1. Great Britain
2. Italy
3. Greece
4. Europe via the Orient Express
5. the Rockies via the American Orient Express
6. Australia and New Zealand
7. China
8. Kenya
9. Alaska by cruise ship
10. the Holy Land
11. Grand Canyon
12. New England in the Fall
13. India

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

It's a Rainy Night in Georgia, but At Least It's Carnival Time

The Science Goddess has done a magnificent job with the 93rd Carnival of Education….I just hate I didn’t have a post in it so I could join in on the fun!

Take a seat over at her offering at Get Your Feast On.

The 16th Teaching Carnival can be found here at Ancarett’s Abode.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

James K. Polk: From Sea to Shining Sea

With this being Geography Awareness Week and with next week being Thanksgiving it might be appropriate to take a look at the presidency of James K. Polk. He was the first president to govern our nation from sea to shining sea and was the first president to host a Thanksgiving dinner in the White House.

Polk was the first ‘dark horse’ elected to the office of president. He had been the governor of Tennessee, had served in Congress, and was considered to be a good ‘Jacksonian’. In fact, one nickname given to Polk was ‘Little Hickory’ since he was a great friend of Andrew Jackson.

At one point Polk made the following observation regarding the office of president, “No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.”

Find out how Polk created an America from sea to shining to sea by reading the rest of this post here at American Presidents Blog.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

So Help Me God this 'So Help Me God' Thing Won't Go Away

One of the first posts that I published on this site that gained some notice was George, We Hardly Knew Ye. In the post I relate several myths and non-myths regarding our first president. A myth that has apparently gained mythological proportions is whether or not our first president said the words ‘so help me God’ at the end of the oath.

The saga continued as I was contacted by a reader named Casandra. Further information prompted me to post So Help Me God and nearly a month later Mythbusting 'So Help Me God'.

The great Mr. Bell over at Boston, 1775 (I love his site!) also has had some interest in this issue as well as others who participated in a discussion group at You can see Mr. Bell’s post here and follow his link to the discussion group.

As I previously posted back in the spring my class emailed the Library of Congress regarding their research on this issue. Very little information was obtained from the LOC which was sort of surprising. Recently I obtained a digital copy of an email from Dr. Juretta Jordan Heckscher, an official with the Library of Congress, to the aforementioned discussion group. Here it is:


Re: Presidential oath "so help me God" This is in reply to Barbara Clark Smith's very interesting inquiry aboutSmithsonian NMAH curators' attempts to find out when and by whom the phrase "sohelp me, God" was added the presidential oath of office prescribed by the Constitution. Reference specialists on the Library of Congress's Digital Reference Team have done some research on this topic. In particular, my colleague Kenneth Drexler reports the following information: "The question was whether or not there is primary-source evidence thatWashington said 'so help me, God' in 1789. The short answer is that I could find no evidence that he did. [Also,] according to a Washington Post article from [January 20,] 2001,'Whether Washington actually added "So help me God" to the oath is not supported by any eyewitness accounts, according to Philander D. Chase, editor of the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia. "He may have said those words," Chase said.' During my research I did obtain a copy of a letter by Tobias Lear to GeorgeAugustine Washington dated May 3, 1789 in which he described the inauguration. I got the letter from Duke University. The letter makes no mention of 'so help me, God.'"

Recently a source advised me concerning an inaugural exhibit at the Mt. Vernon Estate and Gardens. George Washington’s oath of office is printed in front of the inaugural exhibit and it notes ‘So help me God’ appended to Washington’s oath. Another card with an asterisk in smaller sized print read, “Scholars debate whether Washington added these final words to the oath as set forth by the Constitution. Most modern-day Presidents include these words and think they are following in Washington’s footsteps.” My source has it on pretty good authority that someone high up in the organization insisted on the vagueness of the wording instead of correctly noting there is no proof. This same person also decided to keep the myth intact that George Washington turned down a chance to be king as well.

I guess some myths are just too hard to let go.

I believe after looking at various sources that have been provided to me I feel fairly secure in the knowledge that there is to date no proof George Washington uttered the words ‘So Help Me God.’ We can safely chalk the issue up on the myth side of the tally board…..for now that is……history has a habit of coming back and biting us in the fanny as new things are found. I won’t hold my breath, and I’m certainly not going to keep looking for a needle in haystack.

Perhaps this can be my final word on the matter.

Should I take an oath to that effect?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Timberwolf Up! My Salute to the Veterans of the 104th and a Very Special Uncle

This post is probably my longest yet. Yes, I know…..many of my posts are rather wordy. I even thought about cutting this one down a bit or even making it two posts instead of one. I decided I wouldn’t. To delete any part of it would be a disservice to the men of the 104th and to my Uncle Robert. I don’t think Uncle Robert’s story can be told without without sharing details about the Timberwolves and their brave contribution to our victory over the Nazis.

I remember my Uncle Robert as a quiet, sweet soul. For many years I spent at least one week….sometimes two…. every year at his house. I remember a regimented man who maintained a schedule of getting up, going to work, dinner, a little television, his Bible, and then off to bed. I never heard him raise his voice even though I know he was a firm yet loving disciplinarian with his children. There was just something about Uncle Robert that made you want to please him. You never wanted to let him down by allowing him see you talk in church or by doing anything else you knew he would disapprove of. I remember early on summer mornings I would wake up in his home and lay there and listen as I heard the hushed tones of Uncle Robert and Aunt Claudine while they shared a quick breakfast together before he was off to work. Their private time together made me feel safe and secure.

As I was growing up I knew he was in the Army during World War II but until the last few years I didn’t know to what extent he served. Through his children I learned as I was growing up a little about Uncle Robert’s service. He made sure his children knew that World War II was necessary and that soldiers had fought to keep America free. He told them interesting stories about the war and his participation in it. Some of the stories were good, many were sad, but all were heroic.

The West family sent four sons off to war at the same time though their paths never crossed while they were in Europe. Uncle Robert was a Staff Sergeant in G Company, 104th Division, 414th Infantry, of the United States Army that landed in Cherbourg, France on September 7, 1944. They were the first American division to arrive on French soil without having first stopped in England. The 104th travelled to Europe via the USS Lejeune, the USS George Washington, the SS Ocean Mail, and the USAT Cristobal.

Once on European shores it is possible Uncle Robert along with other members of the 104th participated in the ‘Red Ball Express’, a circular 24-hour-a-day truck supply route from the invasion beaches to the front which had been in operation for some time before their arrival. My research indicates the 104th filled a support role for a few days before taking up defensive positions in the vicinity of Wuustwezel, Belguim on October 23, 1944.

The 104th was to relieve the British 49th Division and join the First British Corps, First Canadian Army. They were the first regiment of the American Army to relieve an allied unit on the Western Front, as well as the first American Regiment to fight under the control of an Allied Army.

Fellow soldier, Bob Bilinsky recollects that “G Company moved onto a dirt lane and then into an open area which seemed to stretch forever towards what we assumed to be the German positions.” As the Scottish soldiers they were to replace hopped happily out of their foxholes the soldiers of G Company were to take their place. Bilinsky recounts many of the Americans were “amazed at the complete disdain [the Scotts] seemed to have for the fact they presented an easy target for Germans gunfire! Suddenly it happened! The silence was shattered! Not by gunfire but by the loud strains of the Scottish bagpiper as the unit marched away in a swaying but perfect cadence to the pulsating beat of the music.” Bilinsky advised that “more than a few of us smiled” and “perhaps members of G Company owe that bagpiper a ‘Thank You’ for helping [them] lose just a little of the nervous edge [they] had built up on [their] first assignment for front line duty.” I can just imagine how my uncle (a mere country boy from the North Georgia foothills) must have jumped as the Scottish bagpipes began their initial whining. I’m sure; however, he was ready to cheer along with the other men of G Company as the cadence became a dual anthem of the Scots’ relief at leaving the foxhole and one of breaking the tension of an untested pack of wolves.

The Timberwolves soon had no reason to doubt their abilities.Once in Holland Uncle Robert and the men of the 104th began a series of 195 days of continuous combat with the Battle of the Dikes through Holland. My uncle told his children tales about crawling on his stomach, probing the ground inch by inch with a knife in order to search for landmines. At one point during battle, he was seperated from his company for three days and survived by scrounging what food he could wherever he could find it; but just before MIA papers were to be sent home, he was reunited with his group.

Once they were finished with Holland the Timberwolves began a march through Germany savagely attacking the enemy. Relief was given to the First Division and they joined up with the U.S. Seventh Corps, First U.S. Army near Aachen, Germany in November.

The Timberwolves gained a reputation of an unflinching and ceaseless barrage of night attacks that terrified the Germans. Stolberg was taken as well as Eschweiler on November 21st. As they crossed the Siegfried line and Inde River near Inden in early December, 1944, a German radio broadcast reported ‘the most terrible and ferocious battle in the history of all wars.’ Many Germans called the fighting of the 104th ‘unfair’. The December 6th issue of Stars and Stripes stated, “Inden---there we stuck it out for four days under the heaviest artillery concentration ever experienced by American troops [approximately sixty shells a minute].” On December 9, 1944 the Army Times stated, “Correspondents predict that the coming battle of the Roer will see the bloodiest fight yet experienced on the Western Front.”

I’m fairly certain that Uncle Robert received his Bronze Star for his actions along the Roer River area because the date it was awarded coincides with the 104th’s location at that time. The citation states, “for heroic achievement in connection with military operations in Germany on December 12, 1944 when, during a heavy enemy counter attack, he directed the fire of his weapons until the attack was repulsed and the enemy was driven off with heavy losses.”

He also received a Purple Heart for being wounded in battle. A bomb hit close by him, and a large piece of flat metal hit his leg. He was told that if it had hit edgeways, it would have cut off his leg. His knee swelled so badly that he couldn’t get his pant leg on. He was sent to a medical unit where he remained for four weeks, but then was sent back to the front line.

That’s what Timberwolves did. They didn’t give up. They were tough. Nothing in Hell can stop the Timberwolves was their battle cry, and they proved it day after day as they slogged through Europe.

It is no surprise the Timberwolves had a larger than life reputation. Their training in Oregon and other places comprised mostly of night attacks….something the Germans did not like to do. They trained in the rain and mud in order to overrun the enemy at night and mop up operations during the day. Uncle Robert would have been highly trained in night sounds so that split second decisions could be made regarding identification of the sound and reaction. Twenty-five mile night marches were common practices during training. “Battles were town by town and river by river,” said Harold Kennedy, a Timberwolf soldier. Another soldier remarked, “We surprised [the Germans] so many times.”

Timberwolf commander, Terry Allen, called the spirit of Timberwolf training as ‘Get smart and get tough’. He called their battle tactics ‘continuous pressure and aggressive night attacks.’

Lucherberg was held by the Timberwolves from enemy counterattacks and all strongholds west of the Roer River were captured by December 23rd. For the next two months through February 23, 1945 the 104th defended the area they had won around Duren and Merken. They also saw action taking Huchem-Stammeln, Birkesdorf, and North Duren. By March they were entering Cologne. Afterwards they crossed the Rhine at Hoffef on March 22, 1945.

An offensive began against the Ruhr Pocket which was an area where over 300,000 Germans were surrounded, and finally a 375-mile sweep into the Mulde River brought them to the heart of Germany. Timberwolf Tracks (page 346) states, “Since 25 March the (104th) Division had advanced 375 miles, had captured 19,152 prisoners, had played a vital role in trapping the 335,000 German troops in the Ruhr pocket, and another 65,000 Nazis in the Harz Mountains.” Yes, the 104th was taking care of business and living up to the expections of their leaders.

They finally met up with the Red Army at Pretzsch on April 26, 1945. When they lost contact with the enemy on May 5 the brave men of the 104th Division had completed 195 consecutive days of combat.

Uncle Robert and his fellow soldiers fought ate, slept in mud, snow, and hail. They watched buddies fall by the wayside. My uncle often told his children about seeing comrades throw down their weapons and stand in the line of fire as a way of committing suicide even though he begged them to get down. He became a Christian during his early tour of Europe and his family believes it was his relationship with God that kept him strong and able to withstand the horrible experiences he had to endure. Many of his memories were painful for him. I even remember my own mother telling me not to bring up the war, a favorite subject of mine, to Uncle Robert. If he wanted to talk about it he would do it on his own. I’m glad that he spoke of it with his children. Uncle Robert always stated you didn’t need to dwell on the bad times too much, but should always look to the future with God’s help.

One of the stories that was nearest and dearest to Uncle Robert’s heart was the one about a young private who was a very good soldier but when he learned he was to be sent on one particularly dangerous mission he begged Uncle Robert not to send him. Uncle Robert was the Staff Sergeant which meant he had control over the assignments. Can you imagine the pain he must have felt knowing he was sending men out to die? That has to have an effect on you as it happens over and over and over for 195 days without a break. The young private cried and begged desperately not to be sent. He said to my uncle, “I know if I go in today, I will not come out alive. If I go, I know I will die today.” For some reason that we will never know, that young soldier was more afraid on that day than any other. Uncle Robert had the authority to send someone else, but instead put his own name on the mission list.

Uncle Robert went in the young private’s place.

Many years later tears would form in Uncle Robert’s eyes as he told his children about the young soldier. Unfortunately the passage of time had clouded his mind and he could not remember the young soldier’s name. At some point the family decided to try and find the soldier. There had been a a letter near the end of the war that was sent to my uncle’s mother stating that Uncle Robert had saved the private’s life, but it had long since been misplaced. Contact was made with many of the members of G Company asking if anyone remembered the story, but not a soul did. Uncle Robert could recall lots of names, but the name of the private with whom he shared such a personal bond was lost.

One afternoon in 1997, Uncle Robert was telling war tales again. He repeated the story about the young private. Suddenly he said, “His name was ……,” he said calmly. Everyone looked at each other in disbelief. As easily as the boy’s name had slipped from Uncle Robert’s mind many years ago, it had just as easily slipped back in.

That very afternoon in the mailbox was a new G Company newsletter. My aunt anxiously opened it and began reading all the latest news from the men to my uncle. At the end of the letter was a simple note from the wife of the young private informing Company G members that he had passed away, “after having gone through some hard times with cancer.”

You cannot go through an experience like that with someone and not have a bond with them. Uncle Robert never saw the private again after the war, but he knew the private credited him with saving his life. Uncle Robert’s daughter, Rena, likes to think that all of that time Uncle Robert thought about the private the Lord was actually using her father’s thoughts and prayers to to help the private through his battle with cancer. It was NOT just a coincidence that Uncle Robert remembered the private’s name on the very day he discovered the private had died of cancer. The private was finally at peace and Uncle Robert was too….since he remembered the name that had long evaded him.

It would seem that even though it took a lifetime…..the private finally repaid his debt to my uncle.

Uncle Robert is gone now. His family keeps his memory and his military service alive by sending in information to the local paper and submitting items for the church bulletin. Many of the personal details in this piece are taken from a piece of writing my cousins wrote. I want to thank my Aunt Claudine and her children---Tony, Gail, and Rena for allowing me to share Uncle Robert’s story.

Many people including the remaining Timberwolves themselves attempt to keep the brave service to their county out in the forefront with books and websites. The main site for the Timberwolves can be found here. A book called Timberwolves: The Story of the 104th can be ordered here.

A picture of G Company can be found here along with a handwritten note indicating the placement of each man. If the notes are correct Uncle Robert is in the picture to the right and counting from right to left he is the sixth soldier in the second row. The private who Uncle Robert replaced in battle is also in the picture according to the handwritten notes.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Exploring Family Ties

Many of the students we come in contact each day have revolving family members. Those that come and go are blood related and some hang about simply by circumstances that seem to change with each new moon. Quirky family situations are not lost on today’s student. I believe that is why many of my new charges enjoy hearing this quirky tale.

Once upon a time a man and woman were henpecked by a non-family member to back a scheme to obtain power and wealth. The man and woman kept putting the non-family member off because they were embroiled in a struggle with a group of squatters who had taken up residence on their land. After a few years the man and woman were able to provide the necessary financial backing to the non-family member and the scheme was put into motion.

Soon the man and woman entered into an agreement with a neighbor across the way regarding their youngest daughter. She would marry the neighbor’s oldest son. Unfortunately the young man died leaving the daughter distraught and in a difficult situation. Thankfully the young man’s brother stepped in and married the daughter instead. Everyone though he was probably a better match anyway.

The non-family member and his scheme finally began to pay off. The man and woman began to grow quite wealthy with power and property. They were glad they had finally listened to the non-family member.

Though their daughter seemed happily married, the young man became disenchanted with his bride when she failed to produce a male heir. A little girl had been born, but any other children had been still born or died soon after being born. Tragedy strikes when the daughter is set aside by the young man for a much younger girl. Unfortunately her mother and father were both dead at this time and no one else came to her aide with enough force to help her.

The young man causes quite a scene in his attempts to divorce the young girl, but she would not agree to it. Members of their church family and town began to take sides. Finally the young man simply declares he’s divorced and marries another woman. Many people are appalled at the young man’s audacity. He announces he doesn’t care what people think. Unfortunately the second wife also has a problem producing a male heir and gives the young man another daughter. The second wife also runs afoul of the law, ends up in jail, and loses her life. The young man eventually grows to be an old man and marries many more times.

Eventually the young man’s daughters who have different mother’s take their turn running the family business. The daughter of the wife who was simply set aside takes her turn first since she was the eldest. She failed in her running of the family business miserably even though she had a like-minded partner with her husband and first cousin who just happened to be also be the great-grandson of the original man and women this story started with.

Advance in time a bit……..the second daughter (her mother’s head was cut off) has now taken over her father’s family business due to the first daughter’s death. She is a very powerful woman. Many men would like to marry her. She has her pick from several candidates. Even her half-sister’s widow wants to marry her.

Is this a plot outline for the latest reality show? A script from Desperate Housewives?
A southern family tree (see my maternal line line here)?

No, this is a tangled web of royal family connections that play an integral part in the early settlement of North America.

If you haven’t already guessed my story involves Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. The non-family member doing the henpecking is Christopher Columbus. The squatters refer to the eventual ouster of Muslims from Spain….a period called the Spanish Reconquista. Ferdinand and Isabella’s youngest daughter, Catherine of Aragon, travels to England and marries Authur Tudor, however, he dies soon after the marriage. Arthur’s brother, Henry, steps up to the plate and marries Catherine. Things are great until Catherine seems unable to produce a male heir. Henry and Catherine’s daughter is Mary. Henry turns his back on the Pope in order to be rid of Catherine so he can marry Anne Boleyn. Unfortunately Anne also has a problem producing a male heir (Henry would have never considered it was his problem) and Henry soon was rid of her as well. Henry and Anne’s only living child was Elizabeth. Once Henry goes on to the great beyond his daughter Mary takes the throne. She marries Philip II of Spain, great-grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella. When Mary dies her widow then tries to court her half-sister Elizabeth for a time.

Sure, I could simply have kids read the text where it discusses the Protestant Reformation, Queen Elizabeth I, and the Spanish Armada (fairly heady subjects for a nine year old, don’t you think?). I could ignore those topics and also ignore the backstory since it isn’t part of the standards for fourth grade.

I could, but I don’t. I feel that by sharing the family connections between the ruling families of England and Spain I build prior knowledge, increase interest, and create a foundation of understanding behind the driving force behind many royal decisions. The kids begin to conjecture on their own why Philip II launched the Armada. Perhaps he was mad because Elizabeth had turned him down? Perhaps he was mad because he had lost any hope of England becoming a Catholic nation again? Perhaps he was a little peeved that Elizabeth began allowing her “Sea Dogs” to attack the treasure laden ships enroute from New Spain?

Kids become animated and react to my story at each little twist and turn. It sure beats simply ignoring details because they aren't in the state curriculum, reading the text, and answering the lesson questions.

Update: Tudor History has posted a great link regarding two men who were beheaded during the reign of Elizabeth I simply because they were Catholics. Using facial reconstruction procedures we can now see what the men looked like. See the whole article from Tudor History and their link to the British news story here. This fits into my follow up discussion with my classes today as we dicussed the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. One student correctly advised, “Gee, they just kept flip-flopping between being Protestant and Catholic.”

Long happy sigh…….someone was listening and even better…they inferred.:)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Have You Tried the Anticipation Appetizer?

In my unit titled The Age of Exploration students discover the events that resulted in European settlement of the Americas. To set the stage for settlement I back up the content a bit and discuss The Silk Road, Marco Polo and how the Renaissance led to new scientific discoveries such as the astrolabe, compass, and caravel that aided explorers in their travels. None of this is possible without the student’s undivided attention and their personal motivation to participate in the activities I have planned.

One method to engage each and every students is to plan an anticipatory set. This is a fancy way of describing different techniques to relate the topics at hand with a student’s prior knowledge and life experiences. This very important portion of a unit also organizes the content by focusing on major concepts to be learned.

I begin my anticipatory set by telling students how as a child I used to love to go visiting family and friends with my parents. While the adults visited I would excuse myself to go to the restroom. I would usually end up roaming about the home looking in cabinets, peering in closets, and peeking under beds. After admitting my guilty pleasure I ask students if they have ever done any snooping as well. Usually half of the class raises their hands. I tell them that even though it’s rude to do this, and my parents would have been mortified if they had known, it is common for us all to have curiosity about an unknown place. My admission appeals to my intuitive-feeling learners since that are naturally curious. They are probably the ones who raise their hands. My sensing-feeling learners would also enjoy my story since they are sensitive to the feelings of others. Intrapersonal and interpersonal learners would also feel comfortable during this activity. This portion of my anticipatory set creates a comfortable mood as I admit to doing something as a child they have all done at one time or another.

I then ask students to brainstorm in groups regarding other reasons why people would explore the unknown and what types of unknowns are there that can be explored. After an appropriate amount of time we gather together again and I write group responses on the board in the form of a concept web that has the word exploration at the center, reasons to explore to the left, and unknown things to explore to the right. Students usually decide that people explore because we all have curiosity about the unknown, we gain new knowledge, and might discover new resources. They generally come up with unknown areas to explore such as space, the rainforest, and under the oceans. All learners would enjoy this group activity as it provides interaction with others, some personal reflection, facts, and there is a purpose in the activity. Students can use this activity to link a time period in the past with current explorations going on today. The Age of Exploration is ongoing.

I then pose a new problem for the groups. I give each group a world map, and tell them to try and agree among themselves on a favorite food. Everyone must agree that the group choice is a favorite food choice of theirs. Each map shows continents in the eastern hemisphere and, each map has one of the following countries highlighted: Spain, England, France, or Portugal. I tell each group that they live in the country that is highlighted on their group map. I tell each group that their favorite food only comes from one place and that is China. Students draw a straight line from their country to China. Students who are spatial and logical-mathematical will take to this activity. Verbal linguistic and interpersonal students will also be successful.

Finally, I tell students to notice that on their route to China to obtain their favorite food they pass through other countries. One day one or two of these other countries decide they are tired of people going through their land to get their favorite foods. The route is closed. What are students going to do? I ask students to solve their problem. They need to find a new route. Generally students choose new routes through Africa, around Africa, or north across northern Europe and Asia. A group or two choose to travel west as well towards North America. I post their maps and as we progress through the unit I refer back to the routes students suggested. This activity gets students thinking about Europe in relation to Asia. It also gives them an opportunity to discover their feelings regarding being shut out from something they want. sensing-thinking learners will enjoy this activity as it is practical for them. They have personal purpose to obtain a new route. Intuitive-feeling learners will like this activity since it appeals to their need to be imaginative.

I show students various spices poured out on a platter as well as squares of silk cloth. They smell the spices, feel the cloth, and I explain how the spices are used today as well as how people in the 1400s used them. I ask students about salt. Have they ever tasted mashed potatos or grits (it’s a southern thing) without salt? I tell students that these spices and the silk cloth have a lot to do with the Age of Exploration. I explain to students they are going to be learning about a closed route to Asia and, they will discover what people will do to get their favorite things.

All of these activities provide a base for me to begin the unit. Students are given opportunities to recall prior knowledge and are given scaffolding they can hang on to and refer back to as I discuss new content throughout the unit.

Anticipatory sets are aptly named since they do just that……they set the anticipation level in the classroom serving as a learning appetizer from wee ones to our most mature learners.

It's the Birthday M'am!

For over four decades a very special person and I have shared many of the same things. We shared the same mother and father , the same house, and many of the same joyful times and heart wrenching tragedies that are common to us all.

I grew up thinking my sissy could do anything, and she can. This is a picture of her with our mother taken at one of her baby showers once upon a time.

My sister can build the best play house with nothing but swept dirt, outlines of pinestraw and twigs and don’t forget the hole dug into the earth a bit that will serve as your handy dandy refrigerator. Who needs Bob Barker and his Amana?

My sister can make the best fake Cinderella crown ever out of cardboard from the back of a school writing tablet and aluminum foil. I wowed the entire third grade on Halloween that year. Not only did I wear my crown Dear Sister figured out how to get my thick hair into a bun. I was a radiant eight year old Cindy-relly!

My sister can tell the scariest tales about a big toe running around the woods on our grandfather’s property. In fact I was so scared I wouldn’t spend the night in my grandfather’s house unless Dear Sister was with me. Our grandfather had cut his big toe off when he was younger with an ax. The tale of Pa Land’s big toe wandering about “the place” was handed down from cousin to cousin to scare the pants off us little ‘uns. Dear Sister was simply doing her part to keep the family history alive.

My sister has a direct line to Santa’s sleigh. She knew he had been to our house whether it was four, five, or six in the morning, and made sure I knew it the minute the coast was clear. Mom and Dad were always very appreciative.

My sister is the best training wheels taker-offer and bike holder-upper there ever was when you are first learning how to ride like a big girl.

My sister can kill a rat using only a sheet and blanket, can yours? We used to go to the country on the weekends. Apparently a little visitor had made its way into the bed we shared. When we figured out “that something fuzzy” wasn’t her and it wasn’t me Dear Sister flung the covers back and sent the poor creature flying. A loud thud met our ears in the pitch black. Dear Sister turned on the light and we found the poor, broken body of the mouse behind an arrangement of dried flowers in the corner. For someone as small as she is Dear Sister is a real scrapper!

My sister can remain calm under extreme pressure. We grew up with a lumberyard for a back yard. When it came time for Dear Sister to learn how to drive she was allowed to drive in and out among the bundles of plywood and two by fours to practice for her driving test. I was placed in the passenger seat to make sure she kept her speed down to a minimum. I mean where was the harm……no cars….we were in a lumberyard after hours, right? At one point I got a little upset with Dear Sister. I have long since forgotten the reason, but I found it necessary to exit the car while it was still moving. I simply opened the door and rolled on across the pavement as Dear Sister didn’t miss a beat. She just kept on driving leaving me to pick myself up and limp on back home. Thinking back on it now it’s a wonder I didn’t roll the wrong way and end up dead.

My sister knows how to feed all kinds of animals. It was her job to feed all the animals we amassed over the years from dogs, cats, ducks, bunnies, a pony, a donkey, a cow, and chinchillas. Yes, at one point we really had chinchillas.

My sister is quite a businesswoman. Everything she touches is sucessful. She’not happy unless she has a million things going on at once. I’ve decided her metabolism is on warp speed while mine is more slow motion.

My sister is the Quick Draw McGraw of cell phone usage. Currently she maintains three that ring constantly…..and I think I make a million different decisions a day.

My sister takes the role of “oldest” seriously. She’s delivered the play-by-play of all of the gut wrenching events in our lives: “Dad’s been in a car wreck.”, “Mom’s had a stroke. She’ll have some lasting effects.”, “The Judge signed the Final Judgement. Mom and Dad are divorced.”, and most recently “I’m holding Mom’s hand. She’s gone.”

As you can see she has spent the last 44 years taking care of me, entertaining me, and watching out for me, and yes, taking the brunt of many of the harder times in our lives.

Today is Dear Sister’s 50th birthday……….she doesn’t look it. Actually, I look like the older one. I encouraged her to do something special for her birthday reminding her that she’s the birthday girl.

“Oh no,” she was quick to correct me. “I’m not the birthday girl. I’m the birthday M’AM!.

So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY M’AM from your little sister and everyone else that loves you, admires you, and is in awe of you.

We number in the hundreds!

Friday, November 03, 2006

2006 Cliopatria Award Nominations

Nominations are open during November for the 2006 Cliopatria Awards.

Jonathan Dresner over at Cliopatria states: these awards recognize the best history writing in the blogosphere. There will be awards in six categories:

Best Group Blog
Best Individual Blog
Best New Blog
Best Post
Best Series of Posts
Best Writing

You can follow the links to nominate your favorites.

Bloggers, blogs and posts may be nominated in multiple categories. Individuals may nominate any number of specific blogs, bloggers or posts, even in a single category, as long as the nominations include all the necessary information (names, titles, URLs, etc).

Nominations will be open through November; judges will make the final determinations in December. The winners will be announced at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting in early January 2007; winners will be listed on HNN and earn the right to display the Cliopatria Awards Logo on their blog.

Last year's winners can be seen here

So make sure your get out Tuesday and fulfill your civic responsibility by voting and make sure during November your fulfill your blogosphere responsibility and complete a nomination for a favorite history blog in one, two, or all of the categories. While I’m already certain as to which politicians I will vote for Tuesday, I plan on giving my Cliopatria nominations serious thought over the next few days.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Only in Georgia

I find this really interesting.

Have you ever seen an ex-Democratic governor star in a political ad for a Republican governor? Watch this and be amazed.

I love Georgia politics!

Chronology, Chronology...My Kingdom for a Little Chronology

I apologize. I really shouldn’t have posted a blast at teaching thematically without taking an honest look at the whole teaching with themes versus chronological teaching question. Obviously educators have differing opinions that can create quite a firestorm. I saw this recently when I attended a meeting for social studies teachers in my district. See my original post here.

Dennis Fermoyle inquired as to the themes that were presented at our meeting. I have since discovered they were taken directly from the National Council for the Social Studies. The themes provided to my fellow teachers and I were:

*time, continuity, and change
*people, places, and environments
*individual development and identify
*individuals, groups, and institutions
*power, authority, and governance
*production, distribution, and consumption
*science, technology, and socieity
*global connections
*civic ideals and practices

You can see the themes and explantions at the NCSS website here.

Remember….it was our job to come up with a more condensed version of the themes that would be student friendly for children from Pre-K through 12th grade.

After three hours of torture my 49 colleagues and I arrived at a condensed list of eight themes that were basically the same but worded a little different here and there. We then found out the state would probably come up with themes on their own, so perhaps we had just wasted the morning. Education.....the efficient profession.

Unfortunately I left the meeting thinking I had a copy of the thematic nuggest we fought so hard for but, apparently I either left the meeting without it, or my copy is lost in the dark and dank recesses of my vehicle.

So, if the mandate comes down anyway and we have to teach thematically what could be the possible justification for the practice? How can I feel good about complying? I did some looking around for pro statements concerning thematic teaching and have posted them in bold along with my reaction.

Themes allow for a less textbook centered approach. I understand that. Textbook reading and answering the questions at the end of the lesson can be very boring. I think of it as a necessary evil, however. At some point sometime a student IS going to have to open the book, read the lesson, and answer some questions. My students are just learning how to do this. Some textbook use is necessary, but no teacher should simply rely on the text for the be all and end all of instruction. Standards drive instruction not the text. Gee, that’s scary… hear something enough and you start spouting it, but it is true.

Themes allow for instructors and students to view history through a particular viewpoint rather than the normal causes, events, and effects. By the time students reach the upper grades and the college survey courses they have enough of a background and experience in order to see the big picture. My nine year olds certainly cannot see (without a large amount of jumping forward and constantly spiraling back from me) the web of connections that each layer of history creates. To simply teach "war", "civil rights", or "individuality and identity" as some of my colleagues were fearing we would be providing interesting conversations for some students who know the content, but what about those who don’t grasp content so quickly? To teach in this way would leave some students at the kiddie table.

Themes give students personal connections. In literature, themes are used to enhance understanding and personal connections to text. One of the things we constantly tell language arts students as they read is to connect to the text. Has this happened to you? What do you already know about this? What meaning does this have for you? I follow the same practice with social studies attempting to show students the continuity of events and emotional reactions to the changing world around us. We can connect students personally to history without teaching a unit on war, a unit on women, a unit on global connections, etc. We can do it by showing connections, more connections, and even more connections.

Themes can become the bottom line message we want students to internalize. I agree, but the internalization should be a process over time not bashing the kid over the head year after year with theme, theme, theme. It just adds one more set of data they need to memorize. There is room to teach chronologically yet constantly show students how events can be classified into certain areas of commonality.

Themes allow for a creative flow and flexibility. You are not tied down to a sequenced, roll-call list of events. I’ll concede this, however, I feel it works best when students already have a background regarding the historical events being discussed. Hopping here and there would leave too many gaps and let’s face it….too many teachers at my level are not adept enough and the state boards do not provide enough information regarding what is tested in order to string together a coherent tangle of events for students to adequately master by playing hopscotch through the standards.

I teach chronologically and it is possible to have creative flow and flexibility as well. For example, I begin teaching American government at the beginning of the year when we examine regions and Native Americans. Ever hear of the Iroquois League? What about the Mayflower Compact or the Connecticut Fundamental Orders? Connect these concepts of government at a later date to the Albany Plan of Union including Ben Franklin’s political cartoon of the snake cut into thirteen pieces (little boys love this) and over time (there’s that chronological thing again) you are teaching thematically.

I’ve heard teachers talk about how boring it is to begin the year teaching about the Incans, Mayans and the Aztecs. I don’t see how you can discuss Spanish settlement without it. These were great cultures….not simply people living in the dirt. Many people forget about the civil war the Incans were participating in when the Spanish arrived. This civil war made their culture weaker and was one of the advantages the Spanish had. What a missed opportunity if students are not allowed to spiral back and remember the effects of the Incan civil war when our own American Civil War is discussed. Spiraling back gives the perfect opportunity for students to understand the concept of “divided we fall” and “preserving the Union”.

On the downside teaching by themes can become the overriding content topic, rather than a vehicle for addressing underlying concepts. This is what scares me the most about a push to teach thematically. I see too many educators who are not well versed in historical matters. They follow the course that social studies is the time for cutesey activities such as dressing as Pilgrims at Thanksgiving and reading a play that features the all important dinner. They then check off the standard that states, “The student will identify reasons why the Pilgrims travelled to the New World and will explain problems they encountered” which signifies that students have mastered it. I remember planning thematically in college to satisfy some requirement of some sort and once our units were presented that’s what they were…..a series of fun, cute activitities without no real meat on our turkey leg.

The implementation of themes should not be window dressing in a curriculum guide. Contrived methods to meet a mandate result in transparent actions that even nine year old students pick up on. This can be compared with the practice of requiring teachers to have a word wall in their rooms. If the teacher isn’t really using it and only has it there to meet a requirement by the powers that be even the most uninterested student realizes it as a gimmick.
So, can elementaryhistoryteacher live with thematic teaching if it comes down the pike?

Yes, I can live with my own interpretation of it…..and there in lies the rub. Hundreds of teachers each having their own interpretation…some excellent, some mediocre, and some deplorable…some understanding the vague guidelines that will be handed down and some won’t.