Monday, October 30, 2006

Politics for the People

Ted Widmer, Director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, presented the seminar “Politics in the Early Republic” to project teachers at the Madeline English School in Everett.

Widmer, the author of Martin Van Buren, discussed what he felt was Van Buren’s main contribution, his role in creating the national system of organized political parties as we know them today. In reflecting on the new immigrants who were in America, Van Buren “figured out a way to translate these people into political power”. Consequently, national political parties were introduced that gave significant power to people who never had it, who were previously outside politics.

Widmer’s advice to teachers of young students is to “read history and translate” it for them. He stressed the importance of making history personal to students by imparting to them that historic figures were “real people whose lives had both good and bad aspects”. Several interesting stories about Martin Van Buren made teachers see him in a new light, as a real person.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Living the American Revolution

A beautiful, mild, fall day met teachers as they gathered at Boston's Old State House on Thursday, October 19th. As part of our Teaching American History Grant these teachers are conducting research at many local national parks and historic sites to create a classroom lesson in American History. Susan Goganian, educational director, gave a tour of the building and the Museum's artifacts. We learned that the Bostonian Society is responsible for the building's ongoing existence as they work to champion preservation efforts. Highlights from the visit included climbing the spiral staircase to the cupola, seeing the Boston Massacre cobblestone marker, and learning about the Society's vast collection of documents. Standing on the Boston Massacre markerThe large 19th century Boston fire map books depicting the flammability of each building by neighborhood captivated many teachers.

The journey moved by afternoon to the Old South Meeting house where we had a rousing debate between the Loyalists and the Patriots each taking turns standing in character to address the meeting. The activity successfully modeled the meeting on the night of December 16, 1773 that preceded the Boston Tea Party. We learned the Old South Meeting House was filled with close to 5,000 colonists on that historic eve. The program transitioned to learning about the lives of meeting house members with special emphasis on Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American poet. Teachers were presented several activities that are used to help students identify with her life and her work as a poet.
Teachers studying John Hancock's clothes
View from the Old State House cupola
Granite plague at the Old South Meeting House

Thursday, October 19, 2006

First Advisory Board Meets at Suffolk University

Professor Bob Allison leads a primary sources discussion The Voices Rising Advisory Board held their first official meeting at Suffolk University on Friday, October 19th (One Beacon St.). Project administrators gave a powerpoint presentation that included the project's goals and objectives, an update on the 2006 summer institute, a look at the project website and webboard, and a overview of the evaluation plan. Bob Allison conducted an interactive lesson on how to use American History primary sources with the entire group. Members analyzed Paul Revere's Boston Massacre engraving comparing it to a incident map created from witness accounts that contradicted what was actually depicted in the engraving. Finally, members viewed video footage from the 1775 Immersion Day held at Minute Man National Historical Park.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Old Ironsides" on the Mystic River

Project teachers gathered at the McGlynn School in Medford for our third historian seminar where they learned about the pivotal role the U.S.S. Constitution played in early America. Led by Burt Logan, director of the U.S.S. Constitution Museum teachers participated in an activity that used 18th and 19th century primary source documents to investigate the importance of a maritime economy to the countries survival. Teachers learned why the Congress authorized the creation of our first navy featuring six ships that revolutionized the design of the frigate. Mr. Logan also modeled a lesson from the thematic unit All Hands on Deck in which each teacher became a crew member from the U.S.S. Constitution. A hearty huzzah goes out to Burt Logan for a terrific session and the great teaching resources!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Slavery and the Interesting Life of Equiano

Bob Allison conducted our second seminar session at the Ferrway School in Malden today. Teachers engaged in a discussion about the life of Olaudah Equiano, whose life story was compiled into a narrative entitled, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Written by Himself with Related Documents. Teachers grappled with questions about the authenticity of Equiano's life story in which he describes his capture in West Africa as a boy, his life as a slave, and his eventual purchase of freedom from his master.