Tag Archives: blog

More travel: Biomes

We are going to continue our incredible journey around the world by exploring biomes.

What’s a biome?  How many are there?  Find that out first.  Here’s some helpful links


We are spending 3 days in the computer lab, adding to our concepts of travel.  You may continue your journey that you began for the Earth project or start in a new location.

1.  Produce a nice project in a digital (not printed) project 20 points

2.  Find out and define the biome for your location 10 points

3.  Research one plant in detail 20 points

4.  Research at least one animal in your biome 20 points

5.  Create a food web for your biome/location 20 points

6.  Find other locations with the same biome 10 points.

7.  If you want, you can add additional hotels and places to go to better experience the biome – this will count as extra credit.



Blog 31: Cotton Kingdom

Slavery proved to be one of the worst chapters in our nation’s history.  Dealing with this legacy is something that has shaped our identity and created patterns within race relations for hundreds of years.  Racism and slavery are two sides of the same coin.  How do you teach it?  That’s the issue.  That’s what we’re going to take a look at in this chapter.  If you’ve noticed, it is structured a bit differently than other chapters.  Not only is it thematically divided, but it is also built along a continuum from the perspective of the owners to those who either fought or found freedom.  It is well written.  Let’s take a look.

THE EXPANSION OF SLAVERY IN A GLOBAL ECONOMY (359)  In the introduction, there are a couple main points worth mentioning: cotton was king, most whites didn’t own slaves (75%) and the South was geographically diverse but predominantly agriculturally driven in its economy.  Remember those points.  Now, on to the topic.  Notice one of the first points brought up: per capita income in the South in 1860 was one of the highest in the world.  Ouch.  Why? C-O-T-T-O-N: the fabric of our lives, right?  Notice also that cotton production on its own doesn’t produce wealth.  There’s a global trading network that our cotton fits right into – and that makes it profitable.  Where would the South be without the British navy on its side?  Do you think that we would do so well if we were still fighting off the British and the French, as we did in the early 1800’s?  Finally, there are some important points at the end.  One is that slavery became entrenched economically and the second is that slavery began a domino effect – causing links that others did not want to break – even for moral reasons.  Your book doesn’t mention that Great Britain banned the slave trade and slavery by the 1830’s – and yet they still took in the cheap cotton.  Think about all of the businesses in the global marketplace today that sell products from sweatshops that consumers in the US buy.  Makes you go ‘Hmm…’

SLAVERY IN LATIN AMERICA (359)  Hey, Portugal gets slammed!  Well, it was one of the first nations to begin the slave trade and one of the last nations to give it up.  Note that in comparison, you book states that,

“Historians used to argue that because of restraints of Catholicism, Roman legal codes, and the greater frequency of racial intermarriage, slavery was more benign and less barbaric in Spanish Latin America than in the United States, and that slaves enjoyed more dignity as people. Though it is true that Latin American slaves had more religious holidays and days of rest than in the North, and that caste distinctions based on gradations of color were more prevalent, it is now thought that slavery was just as harsh, if not more so, and that differences within Latin America and between Latin and North American slavery were more economic, demographic, and regional than religious and cultural.”

This is an interesting point about the changing nature of historical scholarship.  What do you think caused historians to change their minds?  Moral relativity?  Political dynamics?  Class consciousness?  Let’s talk about it.

Another interesting point that is not mentioned here is that Latin America actually imports more slaves than the colonies, but by 1860, the US has over 3 times as many slaves as some other nations.  Families and slave codes make the difference.  Look at the intermarriage statistics in Latin America, though, and compare them to the US.  Racism and slavery – two sides of the same coin.

WHITE AND BLACK MIGRATIONS IN THE SOUTH (361)  A brother of a friend of mine actually is a professor and wrote a book on the internal slave trade.  I’ll bring it in if you want.  It’s something not really mentioned in most texts when I was in high school.  There’s a great amount of information on this from narrative history.  If someone wants an extra credit project, let me know.

SOUTHERN DEPENDENCE ON SLAVERY (362)  This section focuses almost exclusively on the economic role that slaves played in different fields, but mostly in agriculture.  Notice the title of the section, though, and think about its meaning.  Was slavery necessary for the economic health of the nation?  Was the nation dependent on slavery?  If so, why?  If not, then why was it continued, if not for its economic role?  At the end of the section is the piece that most texts include from DeBow’s Review, which talks about how the South needs to change.  These are important points that connect to the economic development AFTER the Civil War devastates the Southern economy and it has to rebuild.  Some people in history can’t avoid the ‘I told you so’ moments.

PATERNALISM AND HONOR IN THE PLANTER CLASS (362)  This section is brief, but talks about the relationship between a code of honor and the racism explicit in how ‘good whites’ take care of their slaves.  The justification for oppression is spread throughout history: in American schools on Native American reservations, in working conditions in factories by owners, in South Africa by the white government, etc.

SLAVERY, CLASS AND YEOMAN FARMERS (364)  Look at who owns the slaves.  There’s also an interesting narrative story here about a slave-owner.  What’s the message between the lines?  Notice the tension between poor whites and plantation owners?  It’s like a give and take in terms of power, but below it all is the slave system.  Even the poorest white was still white.  This is the institutionalized racism that doesn’t go away once the 13th Amendment ends slavery.  Do elements of this tension blurred class and race relations still exist today?

THE NON-SLAVEHOLDING SOUTH (366)  OK.  Non-slaveowning farmers were not the poorest, but they had a tough time making a living as well.  They are also most of the fighters in the Confederacy once war breaks out.



Blog 21: Indian-White Relations

Was there a chance of co-existence?  That’s the big question that is asked when studying Indian-White relations during this period.  Was it profit that doomed the Native Americans?  Was it racism?  Was it a symptom of power, where technology provides an advantage from one side to another?  Let’s see.

THE GOALS OF INDIAN POLICY (291)  What were the goals, implicit and explicit?  Think of it as a question of ends and means.  Was assimilation an end or a means towards an end?  What about treaty arrangements?  Was it only about the land?  The other question is whether one policy or another changes with the wind.  In other words, was there a consistency of policy or were policies politically expedient, depending on circumstances?

Your text also talks about one of the most effective weapons against Native American tribes: rum.  Then there’s the factory system, or trading posts.  Finally, Christianizing the Native Americans.  Oh, there’s education too.  Let’s see if I get this right: assimilation, treaties, trading posts, rum, education, missionaries, etc.  All in an attempt to reduce the Native Americans to a non-threat on the frontier?  Or some other objective?  What was the real goal?  What do you think?

STRATEGIES OF SURVIVAL: THE IROQUOIS AND THE CHEROKEE (295)  What is their solution?  Assimilation, full steam ahead, and it doesn’t work.  But there’s another message here.  It’s about the nature of democracy and power – and how the two relate to one another.  Is it possible that the Cherokee could have asserted their natural born rights against the will of the majority, or does democracy only mean that those in power have authority?

PATTERNS OF ARMED RESISTANCE: THE SHAWNEE AND THE CREEK (296)  There are different stories here with the same end, but one of the most perplexing is that of the Cherokee helping Jackson fight against their enemies, the Creek, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  It was the largest slaughter of Native Americans in US History and Jackson would not have won without the help of the Cherokee.  Why would they do this?  Was Pan-Native Americanism a complete myth?  The deeper issue in the history of human relations is the ethical question of doing what you believe to be right versus saving yourself.  Are there other examples of this in US History?



Blog 20: Nation of Regions

How much does geography shape identity? Consider that the early republic established many norms for the nation before the Civil War. Technology, communication, transportation, jobs, homes, the land, relationships, and more were all established in this time of tremendous change. Where would you live if you could choose a particular region?

THE NORTHEAST (284) What are the characteristics of the Northeast? Is it based on the people or the geographic conditions? Reading through the text, also take a look at how the land is used. Firewood, for instance, was burned at huge numbers. Livestock was precious. Also consider the map on the bottom of page 285. Notice where early industries are located. Is there a pattern? Also, think about what’s important to remember in a map in your AP text. Look for those relationships… not just want it says specifically but what inferences you can make from the information on the map. That’s the key. We’ll do a lot of that in class this year.

THE SOUTH (287) Cotton, cotton, cotton. On of the first important points you should note in your text is the list provided at the beginning of the section. This is a good study technique: look for lists. Often your book puts ideas together for a specific reason. Here it is: “A fortuitous combination of circumstances fueled the transformation: the growing demand for raw cotton by textile mills in England and the American Northeast; wonderfully productive virgin soil; a long, steamy growing season; an ample supply of slave labor; and southern planters€™ long experience in producing and marketing staple crops.” Also notice the statistics of change. Notice that the text mentions cotton production in one year and then another. There’s lots of inferences there. Think about the change; don’t just memorize it.

TRANS-APPALACHIA (288) 900,000 settlers move west in just 20 years? Holy moley! That’s a huge demographic transformation. Consider how this affects different themes in US History. Here’s the list of themes. Look at it and then think about this one issue. How many themes can you connect to this section? How about some of the other sections?

Oh, there’s another quote I’d like you to consider: “In this constantly shifting borderland, people of different ethnicity, race, class, and regional origin mingled together, their conflicting social, economic, and cultural values often generating tension. But as they built new communities, they fashioned new ways of life, in the process strengthening belief in America as a land of opportunity.” Think about the ‘land of opportunity’ message. It’s true, for some, that there was widespread opportunity, but also consider the other side and then the question… Does opportunity for some have to come at a cost to others? Are there other situations like this in US History? Are there examples where this question is not true?

THE NATION’S CITIES (289) Cities grew. Bye, bye Jefferson’s vision of America. Hey, what’s up! to Hamilton’s vision. 30% of the nations population was in interior cities by 1830. Wow. That speaks volumes about the growth of the internal trade network, transportation and migration. Cities are very American, though, and so the question has to be asked about how much of a role they played in the development of a distinct American culture and identity versus that role of the frontier and farms.



Blog 19: Foreign Policy

1) Break free of a dependence on Europe, 2) clear the Great Lakes of British troops and 3) protect American interests on the high seas.  What’s the common factor in all of these objectives?  Is it defensive or offensive?  Does the US have similar goals in 2009?

JEFFERSONIAN PRINCIPLES (276)  Your text states that one of Jefferson’s goals was peace.  Let’s think about this for a minute.  First, I believe that.  Jefferson realized his geopolitical position and he also was a man of principles.  Second, Jefferson wanted to protect and promote American interests.  This deserves some thought.  What tools and what methods will a US president use to achieve that end?  Is it acceptable to use force to promote trade?  Is it acceptable to protect American interests at the cost of something else, like slavery?  These are questions that all presidents face, and the same was true of Jefferson.  Do you believe that Jefferson should have done more to protect US interests against England and France?

STRUGGLING FOR NEUTRAL RIGHTS (276)  So what did Jefferson do?  He and Congress ushered the Non-Importation Act through and then there was the Chesapeake Affair.  Then the Embargo Act.  Was being neutral worth the loss?  Was a war worth the risk?



Blog 18: Agrarian Nation

Ever wonder what it was like to live on a farm 200 years ago?  In many ways, you can see an example from the PBS website for their series called Colonial House.  Check it out.  What about Lewis and Clark?  There’s a good website here on their expedition.  Now, on to the analysis.

THE JEFFERSONIAN VISION (274)  What’s the vision?  It was expansion!!  Yes, it deserves two exclamation points.  Expansion of land, expansion of slavery, expansion of trade, expansion of settlers – all was expansion.  You know, it’s very peculiar that your book mentions Malthus.  He’s been used over and over again in sociological and economic terms to define the population explosion and resource allotment based on ‘use to society’.  He spreads this idea that there’s only so much land to go around.  Jefferson didn’t simply want to spread the territory though.  The text mentions that there were subversive motives as well.  Jefferson wanted to protect the borders against foreign influence and also weaken the Federalist’s support in Congress.  Well, he did both.  Go, Jefferson.

THE WINDFALL LOUISIANA PURCHASE (274)  What can be said about this?  It is a big chest-thumping story of American nationalism.  Look how great we are!  We bought lots of land really cheap!  The political reality is more complex.  France could not protect its territory militarily.  Napoleon needed cash.  The Spanish were losing hold on their empire in Mexico.  In a few years, Mexico would declare its independence, along with many other nations in Latin America.  The US was weak, but growing.  Could France turn the US as an ally against the British?  If the US is focused westward, would its attention loosen in the Atlantic?  These are all real questions concerning foreign policy motives.

OPENING THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI WEST (275)  The text says remarkably little about the Corps of Discovery.  It is such a compelling tale.  Check out these websites to learn more about their journeys as well as those of Zebulon Pike.

  • http://lewis-clark.org/
  • http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lewisandclark/
  • http://www.lewisclark.net/
  • http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/
  • http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/
  • http://www.zebulonpike.org/
  • http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/pikejour.htm



Blog 17: Restoring Liberty

Welcome to the swamp.  That’s basically the look of Washongton DC in the first few years.  This is the image of the beginning of the Jeffersoniam administration, but it was much more complicated than that.  The US was a growing nation.  Congress met in 8 different towns before this.  Now there was an official capitol.  The US could spread out, but look at the title: Restoring Liberty.  Does that imply that liberty didn’t exist under the Federalists?  It’s a tricky title.  Think about what you read and how it is presented.  Is there a bias here?

THE JEFFERSONIANS TAKE CONTROL (271)  Jefferson wanted to set an impression of his new term in office.  He had dinner with guests at a circular table.  He rode a horse rather than riding in a coach.  He believed in getting rid of social protocols.  He was also the first president to play the role of the party leader.  This would set yet another precedent.

POLITICS AND FEDERAL COURTS (272)  Here we see how Jefferson’s supporters try to do what the Federalists were doing in the Adams administration: removing their political opponents.  In the Jeffersonian’s case, it was through impeachment.  With the Federalists, it was through the Sedition Act.  You also begin to see the fight over the courts.  This is a direct challenge to the checks and balances system and it bears close scrutiny.

DISMANTLING THE FEDERAL WAR PROGRAM (272)  A couple main points here: Jeffersonians clean house.  They dump the Sedition Act.  They reduce the size of government.  They change back the Alien Acts.  They declared that property was best controlled by the states (no wonder there what he was talking about… hint: chains and whips).



Blog 1: Colonial Political Life

nash_amer_people_7eHello. This is one of my first blog posts I wrote to analyze and comment on the textbook (about 2 years ago). I have since modified it a little bit. Now that we’ve gone through about a month, I can tell you honestly that this class can be one of the greatest experiences you’ll have in high school, but it can also be an enormous amount of work. Most likely it will be differing degrees of each of those two statements. So, where do we begin?

I am going to post thoughts, questions and tasks here for each night’s reading assignment. Sometimes I will have websites for you to view and other times I will include podcasts for you to listen to and review. I’ll also link to interesting images, documents and other material on the online textbook site. Still on other occasions, I will have questions here for you to answer. We’ll build on these online discussions in class.

STRUCTURING COLONIAL GOVERNMENTS (146)  Today, we begin with the development of political systems in the colonies. Let’s take a look at some charged statements in the reading. In the beginning of your reading, the text states that “Government existed to protect life, liberty and property.” It’s an interesting theory concerning political science, but not one that exists entirely independent of the time period in which it existed. Which is the more important of the three? Which applied more to the colonies?

The text also goes on to describe how the British blended three forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Each represented hopes and dangers. To what extent did the colonies reflect each of these types of government?

On the top of page 147, there is a table describing the ‘colonial foundations of the American political system’.  As you read through the list of political documents, do you wonder if there was a pattern to these ideas? Did we become more democratic, or was that something that had to be forced on a society, rather than evolve on its own?

THE CROWD IN ACTION (147)  Well, this is an interesting way of describing colonial government in action.  Why do you think that the authors chose to include this story? Do you think that they were trying to soften you up for the next chapter on the revolution by proving that this sentiment was nothing new?  It’s also interesting to notice the relationship here between political and military power.  “The militia refused to respond”, the book states.  I wonder why.  Were they revolutionaries, or did they just choose to not take sides?  Listen to the argument too… Sam Adams is defiant against British authority and ‘arbitrary power’ claiming that Bostonians had ‘natural rights’.  What about the natural rights of slaves? Why was he silent on this topic, but not his own cause?  Think about it.

THE GROWING POWER OF ASSEMBLIES (148) Your text states that ‘elected assemblies gradually transformed themselves into governing bodies reflecting the interests of the electorate’.  Hm.  If this is true, then perhaps a political system is not something that is stagnant.  Perhaps it is something that responds to external and internal forces – and grows over time.  What does that mean for the colonies themselves?  What are the strongest influences on their growth and change? Taxes?  Wars?  Rebellions?  Profit?  Empire?  It’s something to consider.

LOCAL POLITICS (149) One of the most important points that I noted in this section (and I’m sure you did as well) is that there is a connection between class issues (economic division) and political influence. Notice that it is the lower classes that are demanding more accountability from their government?  Do you think this is still the same today, or does the upper class have more political influence?  Also notice the regional differences here in the colonies between the political coalitions and deal-making that goes on at the local level between town meetings and county courts and legislatures.  Can you see elements of the Civil War societies taking shape here in the colonies?

THE SPREAD OF WHIG IDEOLOGY (149)  What’s a ‘whig’? Well, it’s a person who supports republican government over the power of the monarchy and aristocracy.  It’s hard to imagine now, but this was a completely new phenomenon.  Notice what the text states as the ‘best defense against concentrated power’?  These are the same elements of the revolution and they are very radical for the 1700’s.  The text also goes on to describe the power of the press. But this can be confusing.  It’s not that the press merely provided people with information.  It provided a diversity of information.  Think of the blogosphere today.  You also meet Zenger.  He’s in most US History texts because his is the first case concerning the limits of the press to speak freely.  It’s also a moment in history that is more about planting seeds than seeing results.  Not much changes then, but in a couple of decades, America would explore – and the press would be behind almost all of it.

Goals & Blogging

I’ve learned a lot this summer about reflective writing by reading very inspiring and thoughtful blogs by teachers, principals and superintendents. Since our high school’s literacy initiative this year is to focus on writing, I have decided to return to writing reflectively about my own professional thoughts and experiences. In my first few years of teaching, I used to write almost everyday. I would keep files on my Amiga, print them on my dot matrix printer, and then collect them in three ring binders. I believe they are still somewhere in the basement, packed away.

The inspiration to write again – as much as possible – comes from reading (and modeling) the blogs of some extraordinary educators. I’d like to share a few of them here first:

  • Outside the Cave – This is one of the most prolific, concrete, organized, and reflective blogs I have read by a teacher. I really enjoy reading the posts. There’s a personal style and flow to the writing that draws me in and also makes me think. It is a great inspiration.
  • The Principal’s Principles – Reading a blog from an administrator’s perspective is very interesting. I’ve always thought, because of my experience at my high school, that principal’s were so bogged down with the management of a school, that they don’t have a single second to share their thoughts and experiences (and commentary on research) with the world. This blog definitely proves it false.
  • Crazy Teaching – I have to admit that when I wake up in the morning and check my messages and emails, I also look on Twitter to see some of the latest posts from this very inspiring science teacher and instructional coach. Her finger is on the (research based) pulse of continually pushing the edge of teaching and learning. Her posts remind me of a doctor who once told me that he has always tried to lead his life being on the ‘edge of what is known’. He said that is where everything interesting happens. He was in his 80’s and still acting on that vision. Terry does the same.
  • The 21st Century Principal – When I first started following teachers, principals and superintendents on Twitter to build my personal learning network (PLN), I noticed that many profound and interesting tweets were coming from this person. When I explored his blog, I noticed something different, and not just in the title. He was a teacher, principal, IT director and superintendent that broke apart my expectations. His recent post is about returning to the classroom to teach, while still remaining an administrator. He also writes about modeling technology for instructional purposes. It is refreshing and empowering to read from the day to day reflections of a 21st century leader.

Now I’m beginning my 16th year of teaching at the same high school, and I want to clearly establish and articulate my goals for the school year. I intend on writing about these goals reflectively throughout the school year, trying to gauge whether I am able to maintain, sustain, and expand them as the day to day experiences of a 3000 student school play themselves out.

Goal #1: Be healthy.

For me, this goal means that I have to maintain my mental and physical well being. It seems easy, but to those who have taught in a sometimes challenging school environment, it is very easy to lose track. When I don’t take care of myself, I become weaker in my ability to care for others. There are many websites that offer advice in preventing teacher burnout as well as making healthy diet choices and keeping yourself on a sustained exercise schedule. For me, all three are important, and have been neglected at different levels over the years. I do not simply want to live, but live well. I don’t simply want to teach, but teach well. I want to be a better model for my students in making healthy life choices, and be open about that. By sticking to this goal throughout the year, and writing reflectively on it, I hope to be able to meet all three of those expectations.

Goal #2: Grow professionally.

I am at the mid point of my professional teaching career. Most teachers go for 30+ or sometimes even 40+ years in the field. When I began teaching, I told myself that I would evaluate my goals and vision at five year intervals. This would give me a somewhat random point to step back and see if I am still meeting my life goals in my professional job (that might be a different post).

After the first five years, I decided I loved teaching and wanted to continue. I was happy experimenting with different methods, specifically technology, to facilitate effective learning in the classroom (this was when my computers were new). After the second five years, I had reflected on my growing confidence in my content area. I felt that I had pushed myself to the point where new content opportunities would engage me and the students more. In other words, I wanted to keep learning and share that new learning with my students. I was able to do this with designing and teaching a course on Multicultural Studies. Technology use was fading in the classroom, because of the lack of adapting resources at the school, but I found myself expanding deeper into the area of online learning. I taught a virtual course in American foreign policy for a few years and also integrated an open discussion forum on my website, which was continually evolving to deliver content and (hopefully) engage students.

At the end of my third five year reflection, I had discovered my potential (in my opinion) as a leader outside the classroom. I had taken part in community leadership initiatives, two years of leadership training from a national program, led a school restructuring initiative of teachers trying to offer a pilot program to reform their school, and enrolled in a principal’s license program. All of these pointed me in the direction of professional growth. I found that spoke to a part of me I had not explored before. In spite of institutional inertia as well as political and economic challenges, that part of me is still strong. I want it to be nurtured.

Now, for my fourth five years (or wherever it will take me), I want to integrate all of these self-findings into my day to day experiences with students in the classroom. I have discovered an entire network of teachers and administrators around the country with similar goals. They all have a desire to share their practice and grow professionally. For me this means I want to share. I would like to collaborate with other teachers, get feedback on lessons and practice, and learn from others who are similar to me. I also want to try things that are new. I’ve learned that I am not comfortable in the center. I need to be on the edge of what is known. I’ve seen this modeled in others and want to nurture this in myself. It could mean more use of social media, or more development of 21st century skills, or more out-of-class learning experiences, but it must be new. I do not want to find  myself ever in a ‘rut’ in the classroom. I need to focus on this goal every day. Finally, I need to  reflect. This is why I am writing now, and its why I want to do so publicly. I am asking for support with each word typed. As a teacher, I cannot live on a metaphorical island and pretend I am growing. None of us can.

Goal #3: Empower others.

My last goal is one of the most important to me. As a teacher, I think its easy to fall into the habit of caring for others more than you care for yourself. That’s the part of us that seeks to serve the community, and the future (children). For me, I have learned the power of the network. Breast cancer survivors can extend their lives by talking in group therapy. Social media contacts have strengthened friendships and expanded the ability of people from around the world to share common interests and dreams. Unions have built their strength through history around the power of the whole, not the individual. This is a lesson I’ve known, but not fully practiced as much as I should. What good is a personal strength if not shared with the world? What good is there to experience growth in myself and not share it with my colleagues and students? What good is it to struggle against sometimes impossible odds (pushing that boulder up the hill) without seeking the support of others? I don’t want to presume that I alone have the ability to empower others, but I do have a role to play in making my world a better place. I can only do that by passing along lessons and failures with those close to me. This includes my students. We don’t grow unless we fail. This is one of the most important lessons I have learned recently, and I want to share it openly with my students. I want to also empower, to the extent possible, groups of people through shared discussion, a common vision, and mistakes that may be familiar to many. This means coaching the new use of Web 2.0 possibilities. It means strengthening the relationships with my students (working harder at that) so that I can  have the structure in my classes to teach my content. It also means being humble enough to let others empower me. This has to be a priority. I don’t have all of the answers or know all of the questions. I can’t grow if I’m insulated from change. I want to literally ‘be the change I want to see in the world’.

Those are my goals. I intend to measure my experiences through the school year against the ‘rubric’ I’ve laid out here. It should be fun!