THE PEOPLE, PRAIRIES AND PLAINS POST

January 1996 No. 2
Hello from the Heartland As you ll see from reading this edition, you are using the institute in your classes. This is great and I m certainly pleased. Your letters are truly informative and I encourage you to continue reporting your activities. In fact, you ll hear from us if you don t! Now there s something to look forward to. Hopefully, by the time the next newsletter is printed we ll have the Web page for the institute up and running. I hope to place all of the institute material on it, including newsletters, sample curricula, and contacts. Stay tuned. A few of you will be appearing in the Magazine of History, the Organization of American Historians journal for social studies teachers. Dan Flores is preparing an issue dealing with the teaching of environmental history, and some of your curricula will be featured. I don t know what the editing will entail, and until I do then I won t know whose curriculum will be published. Rest assured, we ll announce this widely once it s in print. We hope that you are making your plans for this summer. We re truly looking forward to seeing you all again. I want the follow-up to be as useful to you as possible, and while we here have some ideas for doing this, we also solicit your thinking. Your needs are important, and we can address them if we know what they are. Let us know and we ll work hard to make sure your voice is heard. Keep up the good work! Jim A Note from the Assistant Director Greetings from Kansas! Jim and I hope you re all doing well with the start of a New Year. We really do appreciate the letters we ve been getting. What follows are some selections to keep everyone updated on participants activities. Maybe you ll glean an idea or two from the material below. I ve written to the visiting scholars and have asked them to submit items as well, so perhaps in the next issue we ll have news from them to report. As for the staff, we have some things to share also in this and future issues. Enjoy this issue! Chris *** Chris Cokinos: I gave a talk this summer at the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference entitled Make It So : Transcendentalism, Technology, Ethics, and the Environment on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whether you re a fan of the show or not, you may find using an episode or two of this series to be very useful in sparking discussions about attitudes toward technology and the environment. Some communication educators are using this series to teach students from junior high to college about rhetoric, conflict resolution, etc. If anyone is interested, I d be glad to share more about this at the follow-up session this summer. Federation uniforms optional. *** Notes From Participants Harriet Ratzlaff Hi Guys! That includes, of course, the gals too. Especially you, Elizabeth, because the Boynton monster is for you. I personally enjoy it greatly and have a copy on the wall in my room. Maybe it will jar some of your darlings out of their ruts! . . . Environmental history has certainly been in my lesson plans. My honors junior English class of 14 has just completed a unit including Cather s O Pioneers!, a short research paper about some form of prairie life (everything from wildflowers to bison was researched, but no one selected the human life form on the prairie!), a viewing and discussion of the movie A Sea of Grass depicting a struggle between farmers and ranchers over use of the grasslands in the New Mexico Territory, a trip to Konza for the day on Oct. 4 trying to get there before the first frost and not making it(!), and photo-taking efforts by all to illustrate some concepts (fear, majesty, etc.) in nature. Before school started in August I fixed a bulletin board with my photos from Konza in July & August and the kids from all my classes really enjoyed them. I was able to get shots of deer, turkeys, butterflies, plants, spider webs in the fog, and King s Creek with the water erosion. The kids are to have their pictures ready to assemble for display this week. I put some of the books we received at the Institute on the extra credit reading list for my honors sophomores U.S. History 1 kids. They are required to do extra assignments in order to receive an A. This bunch of 33 also received a reading from the Merchant Problems book telling about the forests present during colonial and early republic years. We had quite a discussion about resource-extractive economies. It is really fun to watch their faces when they finally make a connection about some concept then and now! As far as EH in the building, I have shared several things with other teachers and found there are a few who are really savvy on the subject. We are in the process of constructing a new in-house magnet curriculum for kids who have been in the elementary environmental magnet here in Wichita, There are two science teachers and myself who are trying valiantly to wrestle the creative control from the suits and I think we may be on the right track!!! We want to make this curriculum cover science, history, English, and maybe another discipline or two. At this point we are just trying to keep our collective heads above water as the district keeps requiring more and more of all of us. My juniors are getting ready to design a survey for the North High Community to determine the knowledge the residents have about non-point pollution in conjunction with storm sewers. They do this as we read Silent Spring and do research about this issue and time period. Ned s sharing of his video about Rachel Carson certainly was an enhancement to this unit. My kids have a difficult time imagining how things really were when old people like me were in high school! They have also read the Samuel Hays essay from the Merchant Problems book. A part of the evaluation for this unit will be some undertaking by them in the community to increase and/or enhance a knowledge of environmental history. Sense of place was mentioned in the Hays article and we are working on that. We were also fortunate enough to be able to have some good discussions in history during the hurricane s ravaging of the Outer Banks in September; it all blew in about the same time we were talking about early arrivals not far from there. For some reason the Outer Banks are pretty much unknown by people their age, so we really had some good discussions. We are putting together a vertical file on environmental issues for use in our research. Ironically they just seem to pop out of every periodical I open now! Where were they before!!! In the district, the Social Studies Coordinator knows where I am and where I ve been and can refer teachers to me at anytime. The new curriculum we are designing will also have an impact throughout the district because the kids at the elementary environmental magnet come from all over the city and will likely pursue their studies with us. At this point we intend to implement the science and English components next year and are at this moment in the process of writing program goals. That pretty much sums up my EH activities since August. . . . Ned Kerstetter . . . I have distributed the lesson plans from the summer institute that are not material to my course to others in my building and school district so they may incorporate them into their teaching. I have used some of the lesson plans that I prepared in my classes, to wit: the assignment for the AP history class on Changes in the Land by Cronon; the environmental impact video and accompanying lessons on the industrialization of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the environmental aspects of settling the West after the Civil War and adapting to the environment west of the 100th meridian. I plan to use the dust bowl materials in history classes during the second semester; I have accumulated enough paperbacks to be able to use them for reading assignments/book reviews with my AP class during the second semester. . . . Enclosed is a copy of a book review from a recent Wall Street Journal* about forests: it has a viewpoint that not everyone will agree with but would be an interesting topic to generate discussion. I want to call attention to two books available through the catalog of paperback books that I distributed last summer. One is Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin which describes the danger of the American love affair with beef and Big Macs and how our dependence on beef may have devastating effects on the earth s ability to feed its people because of the excessive amount of land that is needed to grow cattle feed and provide grazing land for cattle. The second is Coyotes and Town Dogs by Susan Zakin, a history of the Earth First! movement, the radical environmentalist movement that was mentioned by one of the guest lecturers last summer. I also want everyone to know about an article in the November/December issue of Audubon magazine entitled What Good is a Prairie? It is a beautifully written and lavishly illustrated article about the prairie, in particular, the Konza prairie. The pictures could have been taken last summer while we were engaged in the institute. Many of the expert scientists who specialize in understanding the prairie quoted in the article are from Kansas State (and too bad we couldn t have had them as guest lecturers). Borrow a copy from your local library; if you have to, buy a copy. . . . ____________________ *Review of In a Dark Wood: The Fight Over Forests and the Rising Tyranny of Ecology by Alston Chase, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, October 25, 1995. Rebecca Meek . . . I did finally get my lesson plans for the Institute in a format I could live with and that I think might serve others purposes. And after all this time I have actually used them all. Guess what--they work. Copies are enclosed. I am in the middle of using Frances Cortez-Stokes plans for the rag rug with one class of 5th graders (my 3 other 5th grade classes do not have good enough conduct for me to attempt this with, nor would I trust many of them with crochet hooks!). The kids are having a blast even though it s going slowly. . . . ART and OUR ENVIRONMENT II Presented at 1995 Texas Council for the Social Studies Conference Fort Worth, Texas REBECCA MEEK ART SPECIALIST 7839 Mauvewood Houston, TX 77040-1616 713/937-3118 COOP ELEMENTARY 10130 Aldine-Westfield Houston, TX 77093 713/696-2630 Lesson Plans developed for Environmental History Institute, funded and sponsored by National Endowment for the Humanities and Kansas State University, Summer, 1995. Activities: Endangered Mosaics Polluted Patterns Urban Environments Wild Styles Overview: These lessons will explore our world from both artistic and environmental historical perspectives. Cognitive Goals: These lessons will increase the child s awareness of self and the earth. Behavioral Objective: The students will: become more aware of themselves as individuals increase their understanding of the visual arts increase their understanding of the environment and our historical roles experiment with line, shape, color, form, emphasis, design have a positive experience creating a unique and personal artwork Connection to the curriculum: In my district, character development is integrated into the curriculum at the elementary level. These lessons tie into that by increasing/ improving the students self-esteem as well as teaching them to be better citizens by making responsible choices. In addition, these lessons tie into social studies (environmental history and American history) and fine art. The activities will increase the students knowledge of art history, composition/ design, process, and social studies, improve critical thinking and decision making, and they will be fun! Assessments: As you see fit. (In my fine arts classes, grades are generally for participation. If a child attempts the activity, credit is given.) ENDANGERED MOSAICS Environmental Focus: endangered species Materials, resources, equipment: pictures of endangered species construction paper scraps scissors glue heavy paper or cardboard on which to glue mosaics Time required: 1-3 hours Procedures: discuss endangered species--what are they? How did they become endangered? What can we do about it? etc. explain what a mosaic is. Show examples. students will decide which animal they wish to represent. Allow time for looking at pictures. make the mosaics. To do this, the students will tear the scraps into small pieces (1 x 1 or smaller) and then glue them onto the heavy paper or cardboard. The students will need to pay attention to patterns and textures. (In my classes, I do not insist that the kids use the correct colors for their animals although many of them choose to do so. Green and red zebras or purple and black cheetahs can be pretty exciting!) POLLUTED PATTERNS Environment Focus: water Materials, resources, equipment: 2 plastic dishpans colored chalk tools for scraping chalk (scissors, sandpaper, emery boards, etc.) paper (8-1/2 x 11 is good) drying line or rack clean water (4 - 6 / pan) Time required: 30-45 min./15 students Procedures: discuss water (importance of it to life; sources, aquifers; pollution; etc.) the water should be in the pans, the paper nearby and the chalk and scrapers handy. The student will decide on 3-4 colors of chalk. Start with the first colored chalk and rapidly scrape it so that a fine coating of dust lays on top of the water (scrape rapidly, not hard--the chalk breaks easily). Quickly repeat this process with the other chosen colors. Next, take 1 sheet of paper and lay it on top of the chalk dusted water. Lift the paper out of the water and hang it to dry. For a slightly different effect, the paper can be gently pulled through the dust and out of the pan. (Notes: if the chalk breaks while scraping and it falls in the pan--leave it! It takes too long to fish it out, it muddies the water, and it won t hurt a thing to leave it until everyone s finished with the water. During the activity, it is not necessary to change the water. The chalk sinks to the bottom of the pan. Because of this [sinking chalk dust], it is necessary for the students to work fast.) after the paper is dry, the students can draw or paint on it, write a letter on it, or wrap a gift with it. what is left in the pan is polluted (non-toxic) water. URBAN ENVIRONMENTS Environmental Focus: urban housing Materials, resources, equipment: pictures of different architectural styles of dwellings examples of blueprints, designs recycled things that can be used to construct a model of a dwelling Time required: a lot (8-10 hours) Procedures: show pictures and examples discuss city planning, access, utilities, environmental impact of development, building--sites, materials, garbage disposal, other considerations, etc. the dwellings can be either single or multi- family, single or multi-storied, urban or rural. The students may use cardboard boxes, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, sticks, scraps of carpet, fabric, etc., match boxes, tissue boxes, etc. This is a good project for individuals or partners. The students should begin by brainstorming and deciding on the plan for their dwelling (how many rooms? stories? bathrooms? where will the plumbing be? what kind of furnishings? city services or septic system and well? etc.). Then they should draw the plan so they at least have a starting point. Construction can begin as soon as the blueprint is complete.Allow time for clean-up after each work session. WILD STYLES Environmental Focus: environmental impact of fashions Materials, resources, equipment: books, magazines found at home or library showing past or present fashions which exploit wildlife and wildlife used in the fashion industry if available, bring examples of fashion fads that have impacted the environment--ask your mom, ask your friends ... scraps of construction paper, tissue paper, fabric miscellaneous items for decoration scissors glue heavy paper or cardboard to glue wild style to Time required: minimum 1 hour, probably closer to 2 Procedures: discuss fashion trends--past and present. discuss materials and resources used in the fashion industry and the many species of wildlife which have been depleted/exploited as a result of fads. Show examples. The students will make a self-portrait in which they wear articles of clothing that either DO or DO NOT exploit wildlife. When they are finished with their projects, let each child that wants to explain his or her artwork/fashion design. Their explanations could include aspects such as line, shape, color, design, and the environmental impact of their garb. To make their self-portraits, the student will select what scraps they wish to use and begin to cut their shapes. Be flexible--some children will create themselves, others will omit their bodies and only create the wardrobe. They will need to cut heads, limbs, clothing and accessories, and then assemble them on a piece of cardboard, posterboard or heavy construction paper. Carole Granger I did a fabulous unit on place! Each cooperative group took an area of Missouri, researched it, collected recycled materials, and built in five separate units each of which hooked up to Jefferson City, our capital. The unit was a big success. Ruth Sullivan . . . I ve used several assignments already and developed one other on the progressive period. I used my lesson: What Is Environmental History? and one of Robert Dettbarn s lessons, #1, on the Homestead Act. I ll send you a copy early next semester of the lesson I put together and used during our study of the progressive era. I m also working on some material to use as we start studying the Depression era. . . . My plan is to use an assortment of novels based on the Depression period and some of the books about the Poppers and the buffalo commons. I ve got a reading list of books at all reading levels from this historic period which I ll send along . . . .